I had a bit of a surprise as the squash plants started to die back this year. A giant blue squash hiding behind the greenery. How I had managed to miss such a walloping great thing I have no idea and although it is not one of the giant carving pumpkins, at 5kg it was certainly the biggest squash I had ever grown.
The variety is Blue Hubbard, an American heritage variety dating back to around, depending on what version of the story you read 1798 or 1854 where it was supposedly brought to New England from the West Indies because it’s long storage life and big size made it ideal for the long ship voyage. It was grown by a lady called Elizabeth Hubbard who gave some seed to her neighbour JH Gregory who was a seed merchant. He brought it to the market, naming it after her.
Predominately I think the reason we are still growing it today is its excellent keeping qualities, where you could still be storing it up to May the year after you harvested it, balanced with a much better flavour than many modern pumpkin varieties of a similar size.
This is a bit squash, about 5-10kg so you get a lot of bang for your buck. The flesh is dense, buttery and quite sweet. It doesn’t have the complexity of crown prince or uchiki Kuri but is worthwhile giving a go, especially if you run a soup kitchen!
In the kitchen
This is a squash where you need to think big! You will also need to have an extremely big and sharp knife or clever to slice it. Please be careful!
With half I made squash and chorizo soup or you could also make curry . The remaining half will be roasted over the next week or so and I might need to think what to do with what is left! For those of you that like pumpkin pie this is suitable, especially if you can wait until Feb/March the year after harvesting when it will start to become even sweeter.
If you can’t use all the squash in one go then I would recommend making soup and freezing what is left. You can also skin and dice, blanch in boiling water for a few minutes, cool with cold water and then freeze which, when defrosted, can be used as you would use normal squash. If you have a pressure canner (not a pressure cooker) you can pressure can chopped squash but because this squash stores well it is only worthwhile canning what you cannot use in a sitting or towards the end of its 6 months storage life and you have no more room in your freezer!
Yield and plant health
Each blue Hubbard will weigh in the region of 5-10kg which, to give you an idea will serve 12-24 portions of soup! This year I got one squash on the vine….on average you should get 2-6 per plant. Because of their size they are not suitable for growing up trellis and instead should be grown on the ground.
Their very think skin makes them a good storing squash and they can keep in a cool frost free place for up to 6 months. Over time they will become sweeter than when first harvested.
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.