Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash

 I have found a real keeper for our garden line up!

Prairiewolf and I started using heirloom varieties of many vegetables over 10 years ago, in Mayetta, Kansas, after learning about how rapidly these interesting, locally adapted, non-hybrid varieties were disappearing. Tomatoes were our favorites, but we've tried a wide variety of heirlooms over the years.

We didn't really grow vegetables in Mobile, both because the weather was extremely hot and humid and because we didn't really have a good, sunny spot where vegetables could thrive.

So this year, after moving back to Kansas, we found ourselves really excited about putting in a vegetable garden again. Even though we started our garden extremely late and didn't put in a very big one, it seemed important to incorporate at least a few heirlooms.

So we put in 3 different kinds of squash: spaghetti squash (my personal favorite from the grocery store), delicata or sweet dumpling squash (written up as one of the sweetest squash - seemed like a good one to try!), and Thelma Sanders sweet potato squash. The sweet potato squash had two things going for it: I couldn't resist the name, and it came from a woman in Adair County, Missouri, which seemed reasonably close to Kansas agriculturally.

The spaghetti squash wilted away with the first squash bug. All 3 plants, even though several young squash had set already and I got after the squash bugs right away.

Only one delicata squash came up, and it looked very healthy for most of the summer, but it never set any fruit. Finally, when I let my watering and squash bug patrol slip for a couple weeks during a combination of horribly hot weather and a family reunion, it succumbed.

The Thelma Sanders sweet potato squash, however, took everything that this Kansas summer could dish out and thrived on it. With 2 vines coming up in the single hill we planted, I've got at least a dozen fruit maturing and the vines are scrambling throughout the raised bed, in the path, under the basil, through the real sweet potatoes, and generally running rampant. Based on squash vines winding through the garden, you can't tell anymore that all the other squash plants croaked.

Besides watering, my only care has been to try to control the squash bugs organically. (That translates, for me, as picking off squash bug eggs, crushing nymphs, and drowning adults in soapy water. It's a gross activity to have to do, but it feels better to me than spraying or sprinkling pesticides.) Obviously, I've been in a holding pattern, not trying to wipe out the little beasts.

This morning, when I picked up a couple of the fruits, 2 of them easily came off the stem, so I took that as a sign that they were ripe.

I fixed the first one for dinner tonight...and it was great. Size-wise, they are rather like a small acorn squash, and the texture of their flesh is very similar too. I baked them with butter, the same way I usually fix acorn squash. The taste is a little different, but it was excellent. Using them up is going to be no problem at all.

I am really excited about finding this great variety: hardy, prolific and tasty. And it's got a great name. I couldn't ask for anything more.


Anonymous said...

I am delighted to find that I share my name with a sweet potato squash, apparently of superior quality. I am a nurse and live and work in Oxford, UK. Does that make me a "posh squash"?!!

Thelma Sanders

orenji said...

I just planted these squash - here in Australia. I was wondering, do you think they can be trellised?
Cheers, Claire

Gaia Gardener: said...

Yes, I think they could be trellised without too much trouble. Just be sure to support the fruit as it gets bigger. Good luck with it - I hope it does as well for you as it has done for me!

Anonymous said...

I grew these this year also, and I am so delighted with them, I will keep growing them! We had quite a problem with the squash bugs as well. Delicious little squash!

Steven said...

I too am quite pleased with my first experience growing the Thelma Sanders squash, especially since my last name is Sanders, and even though I now live in the green rolling hills of West Virginia, I'm from Missouri. For the squash bugs (the little gray devils), I have found pyrethin works quite well and it is made from crushed chrysanthemums. Squash borers are also a problem but when you notice the things inside the base of your squash, you can cut the stem open, scoop out the intruder and then cover the vine with dirt as quickly as possible. I did that this year and my leaves didn't even wilt...just kept growing. The Thelma Sanders is really prolific. Am planning on trying one for lunch today.

Carollan said...

I am in the UK and had no idea what the `bug` was.We do have that insect but it hasn't bothered with my Thelma's .......yet!! I found this squash last year and it is so much more prolific and easier to grow than butternut squash.Maybe it`s the UK weather that suits it :)

Lvaltle said...

Having trouble finding recipes...anyone try something different that turned out yummy.

Unknown said...

I have trellises mine. They are doing great, but they do need support slings.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Trellises sound like a great idea!