Ark of Taste
Canada Crookneck Squash
Cucurbita moschata (sometimes listed as Cucurbita pepo)
The Canada Crookneck Squash is a bottle-shaped winter squash with a curved neck weighing between two and four pounds. When ready for harvest, the squash’s smooth, relatively thin skin will be a creamy yellow color that darkens in storage. The interior flesh is has a wonderfully creamy texture and not at all string, with an excellent nutty and sweet flavor. It is an ancestor of the modern Butternut squash and is cultivated in New England and the Northeast.
Appearing as early as 1827, this variety was commonly listed in New England seed catalogs. Fearing Burr praised the Canada Crookneck highly in The Field and Garden Vegetables of America (Boston, 1865): “The Canada is unquestionably the best of the Crooknecked sorts. The vines are remarkably hardy and prolific, yielding almost a certain crop both North and South. The variety ripens early; the plants suffer but little from the depredations of bugs or worms; and the fruit, with trifling care, may be preserved throughout the year.”
Today, all of the superior qualities sited by Burr, taste, pest and disease resistance, and long-term storage, still persist in this squash variety making it ideal for home gardeners and winter farmers markets and CSA shares. It is an excellent squash for serving mashed, and in pies and soups. Until a few years ago this variety was being conserved and offered commercially through the Eastern Native Seed Conservancy. Currently, however, there is only one remaining commercial source of seed, making this variety highly endangered.
The squash has been planted as part of the re-created historic gardens at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and the museum has provided seeds through its seed sales program and through donation to local growers.
Taking 110 days to reach maturity, in New England, squashes are generally ripe for harvest and winter storage in September from plants direct-sown in late May or early June.
Photo courtesy of Kraig Kraft