Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Calabaza Again

These tropical squashes/pumpkins are like gold to us.  They begin on the vine as variegated green-striped orbs and later ripen to a beige and cream exterior.  This is the inside flesh of one we picked just last week, a small one.  I'm not good at guessing weight, but I'd say it was in the range of 6 or 7 lbs, maybe more.

The flesh is golden light orange and thick at this stage.  These pumpkins can be hardened off by leaving them on the back porch out of the rain for a couple weeks and then can be brought inside and kept in a dry, cool area for months.  I think one year we harvested in October and ate our last one around June of the next year.  Over time, the inside flesh thins out and is a bit stringy, but still very easy to work with and delicious.  At this early stage of harvest, though, it's prime.

What I'm happiest about this year was not the harvest itself...there are probably more on the vines to pick, and we had an exceptionally wet year this year.  We were late in starting the ONE plant that produced these (it doesn't take a village with these...one single plant can take over an entire lot!).  But this is truly a survivor plant and was grown from seeds harvested last year, and that year's harvested from the year before.  This is a third generation plant from the same seed stock, hooray!! It's SO MUCH fun seeing the vigor repeat itself in a plant truly suited for this climate.  We REALLY believe in trial and error and sticking with plants that thrive in our own climate conditions.  This has not proven itself to be a bad philosophy so far :-D  Here are the seeds for next year's plants...and then some.

Tonight I peeled and chunked the calabaza and brought it to a boil.  Essentially by the time it reaches that point, it's already done.  It's silken and delicious!  I grew up in a family in which my father despised sweet potatoes.  We really seldom had them and when we did, they were so over-sweetened that I never really had any desire to eat them again.  However, as an adult, I grew to enjoy sweet potatoes baked and eaten with only a shake of sea salt and some butter.  I love them that way.  When I married Jack, that was the first time I'd ever eaten a pumpkin type squash, other than in pumpkin pie.  It's simply delicious!  It's not stringy or grainy, is not "dry," not quite as nutty flavored as butternut but with the same beautiful texture and very versatile.  Usually I just pierce a whole calabaza with a sharp knife and bake it whole on a baking sheet or roasting pan till it slumps in on itself.  Then removing the outer skin and the seeds is really easy...no wielding a huge knife and hoping the fingers stay intact (it's hard to slice through).  And I do make a pumpkin souffle just by using the classic Libby's Pumpkin Pie recipe (on back of the pumpkin label), but substituting the calabaza instead and making it without a crust.  It always turns out great.

But sometimes the simplest way is the most appealing, and that's the case tonight.  Calabaza, sea salt, butter.  Delicious!  Here's to years more of simple, satisfying food right from the vine...


Michelle said...

You can also put the chunks in a covered casserole and cook them without water (and thus without losing any vitamins) in the oven. :-)

small farm girl said...

Hmmmmm, I wonder if those will grow up here? If so, I might just try some of those....Although Hubby is not a big fan of the pumpkin/squash family of food. I'm trying to convert him. :-)

Robbyn said...

Good idea, Michelle :)
Sherri, they need a really lot hot season, which I think you have, right? I'll send you some seeds when they're dry, if you like...Marcy, too...a few produce a lot :)