Wednesday, 17 February 2016
Pennsylvania Neck Pumpkin
Obviously, this photo was not taken recently. That was Mr. Ferdzy with the most impressive specimen of Pennyslyvania Neck Pumpkin (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, Amish Neck Pumpkin, and Gooseneck squash) that we grew this year, harvested very early in November. It's been sitting on the top shelf in our laundry room ever since, until it drew itself to my attention by falling off during a particularly robust spin cycle and breaking into 3 pieces on the floor. Time to cook it, I guess.
It has kept really well. The flesh was still solid and sweet, here in the middle of February, even though the skin is on the thin side and easy to peel. The seeds were just showing a few signs of sprouting but most of them are good enough to save for planting this spring.
If you think it looks like an overgrown Butternut squash, it basically is. This is a pretty typical shape for moschata squash, which is the same family as Butternut. Like Butternut it's dense, dry, and sweet in flavour. A lot of people think moschatas are the best tasting species of squash.
As you may suppose by the name, this particular variety comes from central Pennsylvania where it has traditionally been popular with Amish and Mennonite farmers, who regard it as the proper variety for making pumpkin pie. They have had versions of it since at least fairly early in the 19th century. It hasn't had a wider circulation until recently but like a lot of vegetables from Pennsylvania it does well in the southern Ontario climate, since they are very similar. This is such a great squash I can only suppose the reason it is not more popular is that it is a bit of a challenge to any family that doesn't have 10 children on hand to tackle it... it's been sitting on my shelf for 3 months as I took down other, smaller, squash from around it for a reason.
Grow Pennsylvania Neck Pumpkin as you would any other Butternut squash. You will need to have adequate space, and you will not get more than 1 or 2 squash per plant. Which given their size is plenty, really. I did not notice that they were any better or worse than any other squash when it comes to susceptibility to squash bugs, cucumber beetles, or mildew; the 3 big squash problems around here. Given the size of the plants, you soil needs to be fairly decent and water is critical while the squash are swelling, although it's better that they don't get too much water as the fruits ripen. As usual, a warm dry summer will produce better fruits than a cool wet one and they will keep better too. Bakers Creek says 105 days to maturity, and that squash may get to 20 pounds. I've heard of bigger ones! We didn't weigh ours, I'm afraid.
In spite of the apparently fairly dry flesh, this let off quite a bit of liquid as it cooked. A number of people note that it continues to drain off liquid even more after cooking; it's a good idea to let it strain before puréeing it. The liquid thus given off was very sweet; I'm considering saving it and seeing if I can do something with it. Even drained, it's still a very sweet and flavourful squash. When I lifted the first forkful to my mouth, it smelled amazingly of nutmeg, even though I knew I hadn't put any in.