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Dutch Squash

By Rick Gush, Urban Farm contributor

Friday, December 7, 2012

large Dutch squashes

Photo by Rick Gush

These are the three best-looking Dutch squashes that came out of my garden this year.

I bought a packet of squash seeds in Holland, The Netherlands, last year, and I grew a few of the plants this season in the garden. A few weeks ago, we harvested the squashes. Shown above is a photo of the best-looking three. I could have sworn the fruits had an unusual yellow skin tone on the seed packet, but what I got were a dwarf version of Muscade de Provence, which is a very popular squash in northern European gardens. I suppose I should save the seeds, as dwarf cheese squashes are all the rage in farmers markets these days, the larger squashes being deemed too big for easy retail sale.

I’ve always been a bit baffled by squash naming, being somewhat aware that there are a few notable genera, including Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita pepo, and that pumpkins and zucchini are pepos, and the winter squashes are the two m’s. In my quick online research for this blog, I cracked up when I found Muscade de Provence variously identified as a member of the maxima, moschato, and pepo genera. In this taxonomic scramble, I vote for the correct name being probably something like Cucurbita moschata Muscade de Provence.

I came across lots of other names for this squash, such as Fairytale (It has fruits shaped like the pumpkin-turned-carriage in Cinderella.), French Cheese (It is a cheese-type and an obvious sister of the Long Island Cheese squash.), Musque, and Musqee de Provence, and even potiron bronze de Montlhéry! In any case, I’m certain that what we have is a deliberately dwarfed version of the classic Muscade de Provence. Those big Muscade squashes can weigh 30 pounds, and our squashes are much smaller, perhaps 3 to 5 pounds each.

Squashes do interbreed relatively easily, as long as adjacent plantings allow easy pollen transfer by bees and other pollinators. I would like to breed some of the colorful yellow and green stripes into one of the mini muscade, but again, I’m confused taxonomically. If Tonda Padana, also known as American Tondo, my favorite yellow-with-green-stripes squash variety is a Curcurbita pepo as I suspect, then there’s a good chance I won’t be able to cross it with a moschato, as I suppose the Muscade is. Ha!

Luckily, growing these squashes is pretty easy around here because we don’t have those nasty squash stem pests. I’ve always thought of squashes as being perfect compost plants, so I try to dump a bunch of compost or similar into sub-surface holes before I plant squash. There doesn’t seem to be a big advantage in early planting except in northern areas where the cold sneaks in early in fall. Space is the problem that I have, because the squash plants are really huge compared to the small size of the little planting areas we have on the cliff garden. I drape them up and over fixtures when I can, but even then it’s a challenge because the vines can easily crawl up to 30 feet in length. I suppose I really should be growing this squash on a big, flat field near a canal somewhere in Holland.

Read more of Rick's Favorite Crops »

Give us your opinion on Dutch Squash.
Submit Comment »
Squash is a garden staple and most teast great.
Carl, Livermore, CA
Posted: 5/10/2013 1:38:45 PM
I love growing squash here in the desert. They thrive in the heat and long growing season. But you are right, if you want to have them be true to type, you can't plant them anywhere near another variety because the crossing is phenomenal. It's like the bees and other pollenating insects plot how many varieties and sub-varieties they can come up with, even on the same plant!
Bruce, Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 12/26/2012 9:09:14 AM

About the Blogger

Rick Gush

Rick Gush
Rick Gush has long been a staunch organic gardener. While a student at the University of California at Davis he worked at local tomato and sugar beet farms and continued in the agricultural and horticultural industries for many years. A career move in the 1990s led him to design computer games, but no matter how much of a techie he’s become, gardening and farming remain his principal passions.

In 2000, Rick moved to Italy, where he writes to you about his cliff garden and other experiences in Italian urban agriculture.

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