PHOTO: Jessica Walliser
Locavores focus their eating efforts on fruits, veggies, meats, grainsand other foods grown or raised within a few hundred miles of their home. During the winter months, you may think the diet of locavores has to be really restrictive, but it doesn’t. There are plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables that are workhorse winter food sources that store for months in the proper conditions. It’s how our ancestors ate, after all. Instead of reaching for tomatoes and basil in January, they reached for rutabagas, potatoesand turnips. Their choices weren’t restricted; they were just different. But, of all the crops our ancestors feasted on when the snow flew, it’s likely that none was more valuable to them than members of the squash family. Today, I’d like to introduce you to some of the best squash and pumpkin varieties for storage.
While summer squash, like zucchini and patty pan, won’t store for long, there are plenty of hard-skinned members of this extensive plant family that will keep for months on end, providing families with a daily meal through even the coldest of winters. Even if you’re not a pure locavore, you can keep your winter food sourcing both local and delicious! Most of these varieties are easy to source at your local farmers market, or you can try your hand at growing your own in next year’s garden. They’re easy to plant and care for, and most of these varieties are quite prolific.
This Australian squash is the king of winter storage. It keeps for up to two years! Each fruit weighs six to 10 pounds. The slate blue rind has deep ribs and a smooth texture. It’s squat and very dense, and the flesh is fragrant and satiny, with a dry mouthfeel and delicious flavor. This squash is so hard, you may need an axe to cut it open!
With dark green skin and golden, nutty-flavored flesh, this pumpkin has a bumpy rind. Don’t let its odd look fool you, though, because the flavor is stellar and the fruits store for months. The vines are fairly compact and unbothered by many of the pests that plague other members of the squash family. You’ll often see Black Futsu sold as an ornamental, when it should be sold as a winter edible.
Musque de Provence
Also known as Cinderella pumpkins, these round, flattened pumpkins look a lot like a wheel of cheese. With each fruit weighing up to twenty pounds, you can get many meals from a single pumpkin. The deep ribs and smooth skin matures from green to orange to mahogany. In a cool location, Musque de Provence can store for up to a year. They’re both beautiful and tasty.
Marina Di Chioggia
A personal favorite, this pumpkin is also known as the sea pumpkin. It’s so gorgeous. Each fruit weighs between four and 10 pounds and is flattened with deep blue-green skin. There are smooth bumps all over the rind, but don’t let the ugly ducking exterior fool you. Inside, the flesh is brilliant orange and absolutely yummy. Sea pumpkins store for a year or more, though they often don’t last that long simply because their flavor makes them the first pumpkin you’ll reach for every time you’re hungry.
A final winter storage pumpkin to seek out, this heirloom variety is oh so unique and oh so delicious. Hailing from Australia, the fruits of Traimble are three lobed. The rind is a lovely slate blue or deep green, and the interior flesh is smooth and creamy. It’s thick skin means this winter pumpkin can sit on a shelf for up to a year before it’s turned into soup or mash.
Whether you’re a full-on locavore or just looking to support your local farmers market, give these squash and pumpkin varieties for storage a place in your cold cellar…and on your dinner plate.