The Mother Hubbard: Heirloom Winter Squash

Squash is one of the oldest known crops. It has been a main staple for Native Americans for over 10,000 years, and historically referred to as one of America’s Three Sisters for its sustainability, supporting the livelihood of generations of native cultures. The genus, cucurbita (squash), includes many varieties such as round stem butternuts (cucurbita moschata), prickly stemmed summer zucchini (cucurbita pepo), and the round winter true green improved hubbard featured here (cucurbita maxima).

The hubbard squash was introduced to North America around the late 1700’s, said to be transported from the West Indies, or South America- it really isn’t quite clear. However, the squash gained its name and popularity by James J. H. Gregory in mid-1800. Gregory was a New England gardener, innovative seedsman, and philanthropist in Marblehead, Massachusetts. It was a neighbor who prepared a hubbard true green from Gregory’s first harvest and discovered its rich orange flesh and excellent sweet flavor.

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The superb quality and hardiness of the hubbard green squash lives true to this day. Our hubbards have been extremely successful in the two consecutive years we’ve grown them and have averaged between 15 to 30 pounds each! The flesh is plentiful, highly nutritious, and versatile in its cooking uses, ex.: sweeter and more flavorful than pumpkins in pie as well as meaty in vegetarian curry dishes.

Like most squashes, hubbards need plenty of area to spread out their vines in full sun. We planted ours from seed indoors in spring and transplanted them to raised garden beds once the young plants seemed viable. The transition from seed to harvest lasts about 90 days. Its vigorous vines sprawl out in a large area flagged with broad bright green leaves. Underneath the thick forest of vines, large hubbards form from yellowish orange blooms.

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See the hubbard and butternut vines to the left!

Towards the end of the cycle, the vines’ robustness shrivels and browns away, seeming to melt towards the ground allowing the sea of elongated textured green bloating hubbards to emerge. The squash can remain on the vine if the umbilical stem is green and strongly attached, meaning it is still receiving nutrients. The hubbards are ready for harvest once that attachment becomes brownish, brittle, and easily breaks away.

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In our southern California climate, these winter hubbards are often harvested in summer, but will keep for months on the counter. The flesh freezes really well, although cutting it up may be a challenge. Sometimes, due to the elements, a large winter squash will obtain a fracture in its maturity. When this occurs, these self-preserving cucurbitas will ooze a protective coating of sap called suberin, in order to thwart off moisture and bacteria. For extra protection, in the event the suberin doesn’t quite cover up the entire crevasse, wax can be used to seal the squash and keep it from rotting.

If you have the room, get a hankering for warm squash dishes on chilly days, and want to give your garden something to talk about, I highly recommend the Hubbard True Green Improved Squash.

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