Squash – Tromboncino

Opinion is divided about James Wong, the Kew trained botanist, writer and broadcaster. James is famous for books covering how to grow unusual or extraordinary things or how to grow every day things in a slightly different way using cutting edge research.

Some people rave about his suggestions to eat dahlia tubers or cucamelons (a small, slightly fizzy gerkin like thing). Others are left wondering what all the fuss is about. Tromboncino is a variety of squash highly recommended by James so I thought this year I would give it a go.

To grow squash, sow in April undercover. I like to sow in root trainers which are long thin pots which split open to release the plant for planting. They are ideal for big seeds or plants that don’t like having their roots disturbed. Fill the root trainer with compost. Push one to two seeds per root trainer about 1.5 cm deep. Water and top up with compost if needed. Keep moist but not damp. If the squash gets too big for the root trainer before you can plant in the ground you will need to plant in to a larger pot. You will probably have to pot on at least once before planting out. The addition of heat in the form of a propagator or warm room when sowing will increase success.

Plant out after all risk of frost has passed, with each plant at least 1 meter apart.  Squash are sprawling plants that like to grow in full sun, in a very fertile but well drained soil, enriched with copious amounts of well rotted manure. Water well at the base of the plant during warmer weather. A stick placed at the base of the plant on planting out can be a useful way of finding the base again once your squash plant has turned in to a monster. Just as it is hard to over water your squash, it is almost impossible to overfeed it. These are hungry plants and will relish weekly feeding.

The results were certainly a talking point in the house. The plants were so productive that I ended up giving most of them away to bemused friends, family and neighbours who can’t quite believe what they are looking at. However for me personally, that is where it ends and their impressive appearance is not matched by an impressive taste. So sorry James, for me this one is a miss.

In the Kitchen:

This is a versatile squash and can be used when courgette sized in place of courgettes or grown to full size and maturity as a butternut squash alternative. Unfortunately in my opinion they do not make tasty versions of either. They are fairly insipid in flavour, although the texture is good. Their firmness and long thin neck means they would good for spiralizing and their low water content makes roasting, grilling or BBQ’ing fairly easy compared to your standard water sodden supermarket courgette but if you grow your own I’d prefer to pick courgettes young when they are much firmer.

Plant health and Yield:

This is a monster squash plant and is likely to take over most of the allotment unless you train it up a trellis. The squash themselves grow to an enormous size, probably just under 2 ft, although curled in this trombone shape. This does make them extremely productive plants. Tromboncino more successful than most butternut squash in the UK climate so if you love butternut, but have not had much success with them then it is worth a go.

However my experience is that the squash will rot if left to grow on the ground in damp conditions and they do not survive winter storage for long compared to other squash and pumpkins.

Grow again:

Probably not unless I suddenly acquire an army to feed or become a spiralizing aficionado.