Monday, August 3, 2009

Lakota Twins

The twins are doing great - growing nicely, getting a little bigger every day.

Sitting at the edge of the garden picking lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, or beans; big, bright, bold, beautiful squash blossoms perfume the air with the promise of more squash to come.

This year I planted two varieties of squash - Lakota and Red Kuri, both in the hubbard squash family. The twins are Lakota squash, a mid-1990's open-pollinated introduction developed at the University of Nebraska by Dr. D. P. Coyne. Dr. Coyne experimented with crosses and selections to assure more uniform pigmentation of this beautiful squash before making it available to the trade.

Lakota squash was developed from seeds obtained by the University from Nebraska's Fort Robinson, once a prairie Cavalry post, later an agricultural site, now a National Park. The variety it was derived from is no longer in cultivation. It had been grown by Native American peoples along the Missouri Valley for centuries before the arrival of Europeans to the continent. This indigenous squash was also cultivated by the troops stationed at Nebraska's Forts Atkinson and Robinson, and by early Nebraska settlers.

Since my maternal gardening roots go back several generations to the family farm in Nebraska and include Native American ancestors, the heritage of this squash spoke to me. I had to try it in my first veggie bed in more than five years.


Besides being delicious, winter squash is a nutritional powerhouse high in nutrients such as vitamins A, and C, potassium, manganese, folic acid and other B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber, and low in fat. In addition, properly cut from the vine, cured, and stored under the right cool, dry conditions with space between them for air circulation, winter squash can be stored for several months.

When ripe, the twins will be deep orange and green. Lakota squash is described as having a sweet, smooth, nutty flavor, similar to Red Kuri, which I love.

If I hadn't tried Red Kuri squash a couple years ago and then couldn't find it anywhere again, I might not have a veggie garden this summer. I can hardly wait to try these squash, and the Red Kuri too!

Squash and other vining plants can be trellised and grown even in a small garden like mine. Growing them on a trellis saves space in the garden, leaving room for growing more veggies. Even in larger gardens such as Mom's pictured below, trellising works very well with squash, improving air circulation and helping prevent fungal diseases, and keeping the fruit and foliage off the ground, freer of insect damage.

It seems most people have a love it or hate it relationship with squash. Since I was a little girl I've always loved it. What about you - love it or hate it? If you love it, what's your favorite variety?

30 comments:

  1. Hi Linda, that's so cool the squash speak both to your Nebraskan and Native American ancestry. I'm sure you'll show us the ripe fruits. Interesting, I don't hate or love squash. I definitely like it (it's way more than just OK!), though I wouldn't say I love it in the hubba-hubba way I love eggplant, for example! ;-) I don't even know what kind of squash is what, though I do like squash soup in fall.

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  2. I think I like squash but sure hate those vine borers. Your twins look happy.

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  3. Linda, what an interesting post--I like the fact that this squash has some ties to your ancestry. Makes growing it very special, doesn't it? I am like Monica--I like squash, but can't say I love it. My family likes the yellow summer squash, but the seeds never germinated this year. I do have zucchini, though, and if it does its usual "thing" here, we'll all be tired of zucchini in another month:) I haven't grown winter squash in a long time, but I might try one of these varieties--I often buy acorn squash in the fall for a Sunday dinner.

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  4. That looks like a very sturdy trellis! Could you give me the details on how you made it? Also are the squash able to support themselves or do you have to tie them up?

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  5. I would say I love yellow squash and zucchini, but it took a while for me to feel that way. Once I learned how to cook them well, that provided the turning point. Your twins look delicious--enjoy!

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  6. Hi Monica, I thought it was pretty cool too! Squash soup . . . mmmmm! And I love eggplant too - especially Eggplant Parmigiana.

    Hi Tina, I've been pretty lucky with squash in the past (knock on wood!) I hadn't even heard of squash borers until I took my MG classes last winter. It's really kind of funny - since I took the classes I'm always on the lookout for pests and diseases I didn't know existed before!

    Thank you Rose - glad you enjoyed it. After first seeing Lakota squash seeds in a catalog I took a lot of google twists and turns trying to find out more about it, and was pleased to know more about it's heritage. I hope it's as delicious as it is interesting!

    I like acorn squash, used to grow it and butternut in previous gardens. After tasting Red Kuri squash (not even knowing what variety it was,) I had to find out what it was and I had to find some seeds. Then of course, I had to find a place to plant it! It's in a class by itself - sweet, smooth, creamy, and absolutely delicious. With as good as it is I'm really surprised it's not more readily available. But then, being able to go beyond the usual grocery store and even farmers' market fare is one of the very good reasons for having one's own vegetable garden.

    Hi Rachel, the 2nd photo in this post is from my mom's vegetable garden. It's funny you should ask about the construction of the trellis, since my mom and I were just having an email discussion on trellis construction in the past couple of days.

    Here's her description of how her trellis is made: "We use metal conduit for all of it. The uprights are pounded into the ground using a piece of 2 x 4 and a mallet. About 6' is above ground. The cross pieces have holes drilled in them with very large nails driven through. The nails sit in the top opening of the uprights. We weave the nylon (trellis) fabric in and out of the top piece.

    When that's all on, we wrap twine through the side openings of the fabric, wrapping around the uprights. Of course, ours are 20 ft long trellises, so the crosspieces are made up of more than one piece of conduit fastened with connectors for that purpose. We have never had to replace the conduit, as it doesn't rust much."

    From an earlier part of our discussion: "We do reinforce the uprights so they don't lean over. We just pound one of those 2 foot green metal t-posts along side the uprights and that seems to do it."

    Squash vines are natural climbers and have tendrils that automatically attach themselves and wrap around the trellis fabric. Sometimes they need a little help to stay tidy, which can involve gently weaving the end of the vine through the trellis fabric or assisting a tendril in making contact with the fabric so it can wrap itself around. Once the tendrils attach themselves, those babies hang onto the trellis extremely well. No tying is needed.

    Hi Rose, those summer squash sure are prolific producers - seems like they're much more productive than the winter squash I usually grow, and it's amazing how FAST summer squash grow too - winter squash is much, much slower growing, but I think, well worth the wait.

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  7. Put me down as indifferent about squash. I don't really hate it but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy, grow or cook it.

    Although, I guess if I had a connection to one like you do I'd grow it too. And maybe, just maybe I'd eat it.

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  8. Linda, how great to grow squash that you great grandparents might have grown. I LOVE all kinds of squas from the summer yellow, green zucchini and pattypans to all the winter varieties. I have so many summer squash recipes ranging from casseroles to custard and mock apple pie.

    Thanks for all the info and the great photos.

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  9. Squash, by gosh, was one of the must haves in the Southern veggie garden when I was young. But of course there's only one way to fix it -breaded and fried ( we FRY everything :-) Squash, okra and fried green tomatoes still remain my favorites. It just wouldn't be summer without them.

    Your twins are gorgeous.

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  10. Thanks for the details on the trellis construction. I have some beans and Japanese climbing cucumbers on a small copper conduit trellis but I'm going to try yours next year. It's a great space saving technique for us gardeners that need to maximize our small spaces.

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  11. MBT, maybe if it had a different name more people would enjoy squash. I still remember that as a child it was hard for me to get past eating something called "squash," until I figured out it tasted pretty good.

    My first taste of Kuri squash came from a shipment of pumpkins, squash, and gourds from an Indiana farm to the nursery - food quality but intended primarily as fall decorations.

    The nursery owner decided to cook a few of the unknown varieties of squash, and it turned out one of them was Red Kuri - yum - best squash I ever tasted. While searching for seeds for Red Kuri, I found Lakota. After learning about it's history I decided to try it. I hope it's as good as Red Kuri.

    Hi Beckie, like Rose said, knowing how to cook it can make the difference between loving squash or not - sounds like you really know how to cook it and have some wonderful recipes. The mock apple pie has me intrigued!

    Carolyn, "Squash by gosh" - LOL! I love that phrase! I've never had fried squash. . . might have to try that. I've thought about trying a stuffed/fried squash blossom recipe. There are a lot more blossoms than there are squash!

    I'm not a huge okra fan, but my dad had a delicious vegetable soup he made with a lot of okra and I loved it in that soup. And fried green tomatoes. . . mmmmm!

    Can't wait to use some of the end-of-the-summer green tomatoes for frying. They're really good sauteed with a little olive oil, basil, and garlic and topped with fresh-grated parmesan too. That was a concoction my oldest daughter came up with one day as a teenager experimenting in the kitchen. We all loved them, and I've been using late-season green tomatoes that way ever since.

    You're welcome Rachel! I've often admired Mom's trellises, and am glad I have one in my small bed. It definitely maximizes the quantity and variety of vegetables I can grow.

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  12. You squash and squash plants look great. Hope you get some tasty gourds. My favorite squash is Kabocha-which actually originated in the Americas and was bred into its present form in Japan.

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  13. Of course the Red Kuri is another of those "from the Americas perfected in Japan" varieties. Yum.

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  14. Your veggie garden looks great, and it's really large (as I look upon my 2 pots ;)

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  15. Thanks Nicole, I've never tried Kabocha - I'll be on the lookout for it!

    Thanks Rosemarie. I wish I had a garden the size of Moms, but I love my little raised bed veggie bed.

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  16. Anonymous3:56 PM

    Linda,

    I too am growing Lakota along with a couple other winter squash. Can you tell me how I will know when it is completely ripe to pick? This is my first experience with Lakotas.

    Thanks I really enjoyed reading this thread!
    Judy

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  17. Judy, this is my my first experience growing Lakota squash too. I think the indicators for when to pick it will be about the same as for most other winter squash.

    As the fruits ripen the surface of the rind will harden and loose its sheen, and the stems will change color to tan or grayish depending upon the variety, becoming less supple, and rather dry and corky in texture.

    Color is another indicator, and Lakotas should be a deep, bright orange and dark green when ripe.
    In my experience winter squash usually start to ripen beginning in late August.

    The vines will continue to grow until frost, but pinching the growing tips will help the plants concentrate their energy on growing and ripening the existing fruits instead of producing more vegetative growth and more fruits that may not end up having enough time to ripen anyway. You may end up with fewer fruits than if you let the vines continue to grow and produce more, but you'll end up with larger, higher-quality fruits that will have enough time to ripen before the first frost.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and hope this additional info on when to harvest is helpful.

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  18. Linda, I know you remember we had winter squash at home when you were little. We used to grill it brushed with olive oil and seasoned. I still like it that way on occasion. I have always liked the winter type better than the summer squash, although I like those too, if they are well-seasoned and not over cooked. Some of our favorite ways to cook winter squash are chunks or slices baked with chicken broth, garlic, salt, pepper and fresh, chopped rosemary; or the same basic thing but with curry spices instead of rosemary; and this really good recipe I have for winter squash lasagna. I wasn't sure how that would be when I made it the first time, but we, and company we've had, really like it. I make a big pan of it and put leftovers in the freezer for a quick "frozen dinner" when we've been working long in the garden or been away from home. We do the same with moussaka, stuffed peppers, and a few other things - our own supply of organic, frozen meals.
    Mom

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  19. Hi Mom, yep, I remember. I remember being one of the only, if not the only kid in the family who liked squash, and I remember telling you I wished it had a different name than 'squash!'

    I might like to try your squash lasagna - sounds interesting.

    I like freezing pre-made meals too (hmmm. . . wonder where I got that idea. . . ) Especially just cooking for two most of the time, we end up with a lot of leftovers. I hate waste but get tired of eating the same thing a few days in a row. I love the convenience of all those vacuum-sealed packages of good food - keeps us from making fast-food runs when we're not up for, or don't have time to cook something from scratch (although we do succumb to the rare fast-food run once in a blue moon.)

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  20. Linda, Your mom's garden looks scrumptious and healthy...and did I say beautiful! It is! The twins look great! I'm one who loves squash and have been serving it oven roasted with olive oil and sea salt since it started showing up at the farmer's market! Yummy! gail

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  21. Linda, this is a wonderful post on your heritage and how it ties into the squash varieties. I learned quite a lot of great info! I do like squash...butternut, spaghetti, yellow, & zucchini are the only ones I can think of, but I like them all so I'd probably enjoy the ones you've featured as well! The twins sure are cute...

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  22. I really love all kinds of squash, but after working in the deli and having to do the cook's prep work, which including peeling and chopping loads of butternut squash.....I'd rather not see one of those again.

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  23. Hi Gail, I agree she has a beautiful, healthy, and delicious garden.

    Your squash recipe sounds simple and delicious!

    Glad you enjoyed the post Jan. If you like butternut I think you'd like kuri too. I hope Lakota turns out to be that yummy too.

    Hi K&V, I can imagine that would get old. If I were in your shoes I might feel the same. You could always get Kim to cut up the squash. . . ;)

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  24. 'The Twins'..I love it! Almost too pretty to eat! I'm so impressed with Mom's garden..what a great trellis system!

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  25. They are pretty aren't they Lynn, but I think I'll still manage to eat them! Mom and her Garden Buddy have put a lot of work into that garden, and it's pretty amazing how much produce they harvest. They grow most of their own vegetables, freezing and drying the surplus so they continue to enjoy their harvest throughout the year (and I enjoy it too, each time I visit!)

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  26. Squash was one of the few vegetables I ate as a child (green beans and potatoes are the only other ones), so I still have a fondness for it. The Spouse makes a fantastic squash soup with Gruyere croutons (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Winter-Squash-Soup-with-Gruyere-Croutons-2997) - we'd eat it all winter except that it's such a pain to cube up raw butternut squash.

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  27. I love zucchini~ bread, cake, zucchini bake, just on the grill in foil. Plus it is so easy to grow and give away too! I am also wondering about your trellis for the squash. Can it support the vegetables when they are large? That would be so much neater than crawling along the ground. I will check back to see if you talk about this in another post. Thanks.

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  28. LCS, yum, that soup sounds delicious! I love Epicurious. Recipe Zaar is a favorite site of mine too. I like going through the reviews and often get good ideas for modifying a recipe through them. I may try that soup recipe with Kuri squash this fall!


    It agree - it's a pain cutting up raw squash for recipes. I usually just cut it half, seed it, and roast it (skin side up,) then scoop the flesh out of the shell when tender. It works great for soup, or just about any blended or mashed squash recipe, and is SO much easier.

    Hi Teresa, I've never grown zucchini, but I do love it baked into breads and stuff. The trellis works great for squash as long as the posts are supported and there's a rigid top piece with the trellis material threaded through it like Mom's (described in the comments here.) I didn't use a top post and my trellis fabric is sagging, but Mom's is perfectly sturdy. (Mine will have a top post next year.)

    Mom grows some Paul Bunyan-sized butternut squash, and this season, some of her Kuri squash is basketball-sized. She's also grown watermelons on the trellis. Although not as big as some of them in the grocery store, the trellis works great for those too.

    There are so many good reasons for growing vining crops on trellises. Keeping the vines off the ground and neater is a big reason, as is leaving more room in the garden for more veggies. Trellises save a lot of space, whether a garden is large like Mom's or small like mine.

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  29. I myself love squash and have made winter squash ravioli on occasion. Although I do not have any growing in the garden presently. My local CSA grows more than enough for me.

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  30. Hi Chris, yum - squash ravioli! I've never made it but have enjoyed it at one of my favorite local restaurants.

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