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Mighty Hubbard squash is worth cutting



King Arthur would have known just what to do. My heftiest chef knife was plunged to the hilt in a blue Hubbard squash twice the size of a Thanksgiving turkey and only a heroic effort would remove it. I found that by drawing the handle toward me as far as it would go, then thrusting it in the opposite direction, I could waggle it back and forth, creating a cleft wide enough to pull the blade free.

With repeated plunging and waggling around its girth, the squash finally split in two.

By no means as hard as the King’s stone, the blue Hubbard is still an intimidating vegetable. In an age of petite courgettes, delicatas, sweet dumplings and pattypans, few gardeners think to grow it. Mine was a gift from a talented young local farmer who left it sitting on my kitchen table like a beached whale, and in the end I was glad she did.

The inside of a blue Hubbard is a stunning rich orange that trumpets its stores of beta carotene and fine flavor. Eager to indulge, despite a busy day, I heated the oven to 350 degrees F, scraped the seeds from my prize, and roasted half of it unadorned in my biggest pan. After an hour, the slate blue skin was bronzed and blistered, the interior juicy and succulent.

Seizing my biggest spoon I scooped the flesh away from the skin quickly and effortlessly. All it needed was a warm bowl, salt, pepper and bounteous butter to become the hit of our farm lunch. The other half proved just as popular the next day.

Hubbard squashes (there are colors other than blue) are no harder to grow than any winter squash if you have good fertile soil, and even if a vine bears only one, a 40-pound fruit from one seed is a generous yield.

Thanks to their hard skin, Hubbards will keep all winter in a cool room. I’d bring one out from time to time to use as an ornament, epic in its huge, blue wartiness. Another good plan would be to roast one or two, then spoon the cooked flesh into jars to can or freeze. Having these on hand for pies or an instant vegetable dish is a good way to make the luscious harvest last.

For variety you could add nutmeg and other spices, or use it as the basis for a hearty winter soup. Roasting with the skin still on is the trick, since peeling it first would be too laborious. It’s only the first cut that’s daunting, For that you need a little courage and a mighty blade.

Barbara Damrosch

Barbara Damrosch

Barbara Damrosch’s latest book is “The Four Season Gardener’s Cookbook.”
Barbara Damrosch

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