About a month ago, I invited readers to share favorite recipes that make use of the fresh produce from their gardens. In response, Judith Cousins, of West Chester, wrote, “One vegetable I always grow is Neck Pumpkin, which tastes like butternut squash, but has more usable flesh and seems more resistant to squash bugs and borers.”
Said Cousins, “It does take up a lot of space. I usually plant one hill—six or seven seeds—up at the far end of my garden where it can run over the compost heap.” She also noted that these squash are long keepers. In some years, she said, “I have used the last one the following May.”
Cousins gets her neck pumpkin seeds from Rohrer’s, in Lancaster County. (2472 Old Philadelphia Pike, Smoketown. Web address: www.rohrerseeds.com.) I went to the website and read about the seeds; a packet of 25 sells for $1.99. I noticed that the seeds are treated with fungicide. This is to help keep seeds from rotting in the soil before they germinate.
If you’d rather not plant treated seeds, there are other options. For instance, Baker Creek sells essentially the same seeds under the name “Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash.” Twenty seeds sell for $2.50. (www.rareseeds.com)
As Baker Creek describes it, this squash is “A popular 19th century Pennsylvania variety that is still grown in many Amish communities. Sometimes called Neck Pumpkin because of its long, flesh-filled neck. They can reach 20 pounds in size! The flesh is superb, being deep orange and richly flavored, making it so popular with Amish wives for making their delectable pumpkin pies, butters and other desserts.”
I did a little more searching on the internet, and found some reviews from gardeners:
“It’s January and I still have many more squash left. I only grew one plant but it probably gave me 18 eight-pound-plus squash. Since the squash is mostly neck you can make three pies and a large batch of soup just from one squash. This squash is great for cooking and awesome for pies!”
“Just a wonderful squash to grow and boy, the pie made from it is superb too.”
Along with her letter, Cousins enclosed a recipe from the March 14 issue of the Wall Street Journal. “We ate the enclosed recipe—using neck squash instead of butternut—and it was excellent,” she noted. Here’s the recipe, from chef Meeru Dhalwala.
Neck Squash and Chickpea Curry
Total Time: 35 minutes Serves: 4-6
¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (Cousins used 1/2 tsp.)
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 pounds neck squash, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes ½ cup tomato purée ½ cup Greek-style yogurt (optional)
3 cups cooked chickpeas
Cooked basmati rice, for serving
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add butter and cook until melted and foam subsides, about 2 minutes. Stir in the spices, salt and brown sugar and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato puree and squash until well combined. Transfer the contents to a casserole dish and bake on middle rack of oven until squash is brown and tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, if using the yogurt, season it with salt. Remove casserole from oven; stir in chickpeas. Return casserole to oven and roast, uncovered, until chickpeas are heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve over cooked basmati rice. Garnish with scallions and a dollop of yogurt, if using it. This sounds like a delicious and warming recipe for the cold months; a perfect use for long-keeping winter squash.
Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442.