Each year we try a few new varieties of old favorites. This year, we are growing an heirloom variety, Tatuma (Calabacita). The seed packet referred to Tatuma as a summer squash that is best picked at about 3″. As we soon discovered, it is one of those varieties where one plant will take over your garden.
As often happens with summer squash, some were left on the plant and grew to be almost as big as a bucket. The skin was turning from a dark green to orange. I was wondering if a stray pumpkin plant had made its way into the garden.
When I tried to cut into the large squash I had, I was surprised at how tough the skin was. When I got the top cut off, it did not look like summer squash, the density was more like a pumpkin. So, I put the top back on, jabbed a few holes to let out air and put the whole thing in the microwave and cooked it until a knife went in easily. After carefully removing the seed parts, I scooped out the flesh and took a taste of it without any seasoning. The texture was like mashed potatoes. The taste like no other squash, summer or winter, it was sweeter. It was a hit with everyone who tried it at the office.
It can be served as a dessert pudding/pie filling (a hint of butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves with a few raisins, a few pecans would be great). Or use savory herbs for a side dish. We’re turning over a supply of the Tatuma squash to our resident herbalist and food expert, Rita Heikenfeld, to experiment with.
Using Google to search turned up other interesting facts about Tatuma.
- It is almost immune to the squash borer insect – a major problem in our gardens.
- Allowed to lay on the ground , the stems will send down roots every foot or so, making it more drought tolerant and allowing other parts of the plant to survive if one piece of the stem is invaded by the squash borer.
- It’s dense flesh makes it a great candidate for grilling.
- The skin is so rigid you can use it as a serving dish.
We are just beginning to explore the many ways to use this great food. We have liked it so much in the older “winter” squash stage that we still have to try it as a summer squash. It is sure to show up on the school menu next year.