Ark of Taste
Thelma Sanders Squash
This squash variety was acquired by Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) of Decorah, Iowa in 1984 from SSE member and squash collector Tom Knoche of Ohio. Knoche had received the variety from Evert Pettit through the SSE members’ Yearbook. Evert, in turn, received the variety from Mrs. Thelma Sanders of Adair County, Missouri. Pettit seems to be the one who coined the name “Thelma Sanders’ Sweet Potato Squash” when he began offering it to the SSE membership in 1981. Thus far, SSE has been unable to confirm the origin of this squash via primary sources, but it was likely around well before it was first documented in 1980.
In Thelma’s own words from 1980, this squash is “fine meated, better than sweet potatoes.” The variety is a popular offering among the members of SSE and it is delicious prepared in the myriad of ways common to all winter squashes.
Winter squash is readily grown in the American Midwest and Thelma Sanders squash can be grown there organically with good result. It is a 6” vining, yellow squash which produces early and is shaped like an acorn. It has deeply ribbed skin, a lovely cream color, and savory flesh. Besides its nutty, hearty flavor, it has a strong reputation for productivity and winter keeping ability, both of which offer food security for families who grow and enjoy this variety. It is also a prolific producer of seeds, which lends itself readily to continued propagation. These factors bode well for the production of this home gardener’s favorite in more commercial venues.
Thelma Sanders passed away in 1998, but her legacy lives on, including in the form of this delectable family treasure. While Thelma Sanders Squash is not currently commercially available, its valued place in the home gardener’s selection promises a hopeful future for its preservation.