I waited a long time to grow Burgess buttercup squash. There is only one main supplier in the UK which is the Real Seed Company and they always sell out early. Added to that we then had Covid and everyone decided to become preppers or had lots of time on their hands and turned to gardening and start growing their own so everywhere sold out of everything. However I had managed to get my order in early enough so 2021 was the year.
Burgess buttercup is an heirloom squash. I’ve seen a couple of dates knocking around for its development. Some say it was bred in the North Dakota 1932 Agricultural experiment station in 1925, others that it was bred in North Dakota but by Oscar H Will & Co in 2019, Burpees introduced it in 1952 but others may have introduced it earlier in 1931. However be it over 100 years old or not it is a very fine squash.
The buttercup also has an unusual square blocky shape. I wonder if this is deliberate as it is a very long storing squash and its square nature means they could be stacked easily.
Given it took so long to get hold of seed the question is was it worth the wait? Absolutely!
In the Kitchen
Burgess buttercup was apparently originally bred as a substitute for sweet potato. It doesn’t taste like a sweet potato to me but when cooked the dense velvety flesh is sweet and flavourful. Try slicing in half, removing the seeds and gently roasting with a little olive oil and salt for 45 minutes at 160c and then scoop out the flesh or slice in to wedges (skin on) and roast for 20 minutes at 180c.
Yield and Plant Health
Plants will yield around 4 squash each in the UK in a good year weighing a touch over a kilo. Each will happily feed 4-6. Like most squash and pumpkin in the UK Burgess Buttercup doesn’t suffer much from pests or diseases other than potential slug damage when young. They ripened well in our relatively short season.
Burgess buttercup store really well and you can certainly still be eating them well in to the new year.
Real Seed Company (UK)
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.