I grow many types of squash in my garden, but perhaps no other squash elicits quite so many comments as our Tromboncino squash. With slender fruits that easily grow to three feet in length and blooms the size of dinner plates, this Italian heirloom definitely grabs your attention!
These squash might literally grab you, too! True to their Italian name, “Zucchetta Rampicante,” these fast-growing squash grow rampant in the garden. As suggested by Eliot Coleman, who affectionately refers to this squash as “The Zucchini That Ate Manhattan,” I train Tromboncino vines on our fence to keep them from overtaking the garden. Trellised in this manner, many of the fruits grow long and straight, but as soon as the fruit reaches the ground, these squash take on their “trombone” shapes for which they are named.
If you are an organic gardener that struggles with squash borers, cucumber beetles, or powdery mildew, this plant is for you! Like the cowpeas that I adore, these squash seem unfazed by any pest or pathogen that they might encounter. Nothing seems to faze them, really… including cold temperatures. Due to a shortage among my heirloom seed sources, I didn’t get Tromboncino seeds in the ground until mid-July; the plants started producing fruits by the 2nd week of August, and continued to fruit even after a few light frosts. And talk about prolific — we harvested 316 pounds of squash from just 3 hills a few summers ago! This year’s “late” plantings in two hills? About 90 pounds of mature squash (weighed after curing).
But Tromboncino are more than just prolific. If you have a small space and need plants that perform more than one duty, Tromboncino is a fantastic option because it is both a summer and winter squash. For fantastic zucchini-like squash, harvest when the fruits are green — only 4 to 6 inches long is ideal for steaming, though the longer green sizes are good for cubing and roasting. The flesh is firm, not watery like many squash that quickly turn to mush. These are my “winter zucchini” — this year I was able to harvest through early November, and the squash kept well in my refrigerator through early December.
Allow the squash to mature and they resemble butternut squash, both in color and flavor (though a little less sweet and just slightly more fibrous). I’ve noticed variation in sweetness from one seed supplier to the next, as well as in disease-resistance and immature fruit color, which is why this year I have seeds from several sources that I will be growing in trials, hand-pollinating them so that I know I have pure seed, and selecting for the traits I desire. (Janisse Ray has an excellent discussion about this natural variation and the importance of preserving seed diversity, even within a given cultivar, in her book, The Seed Underground).
Storing Tromboncino Squash
Mature Tromboncino squash keep amazingly well if properly cured and stored. As you would for any mature winter squash, leave at least an inch of stem on each fruit — the open flesh on a squash without a stem is susceptible to bacteria and fungi that cause rot. After washing garden soil from the squash, wipe each down with a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Keep them in a well-ventilated area for a couple of weeks, then store in a cooler part of your home (such as an unheated closet). The squash rind is thin but hard… they keep incredibly well through at least March (the longest we’ve kept them, only because we run out of them!).
Cooking Mature Trombocino
Mature Trombocino are a cinch to cook. All of the seeds are in the bulbous end, so you end up with much more usable flesh than most squash varieties. They are MUCH easier to peel than other winter squash, as they don’t have grooves or curves to work around (provided you’re growing them straight on a trellis).
But you don’t need to peel squash. Roast them in the oven by cutting the fruits in half, and you need only scoop out the flesh when they are cooked. I add a little water to the pan, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is the first time you have cooked winter squash in this way, don’t be scared by the white spots that appear after baking — it’s just starch (akin to what appears on the surface of a microwaved potato). I’ve heard of people throwing away their squash, afraid that these white spots were mold that suddenly came to their attention after the squash was baked… what a travesty!
Puréed Trombocino is a wonderful base for winter soups. See for yourself… try it in this curried winter squash soup recipe that I am sharing today.
- ½ onion, diced
- Olive oil
- 1½ Tbsp Red Curry Paste
- ¾ tsp cumin
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or sliced fine
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ~1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or ¼ tsp ground nutmeg)
- 2½ to 3 cups chicken broth (if using packaged, check your label if you need it to be gluten free)
- 2½ lbs cooked and pureed winter squash (~6 cups, or about 1 average-sized Tromboncino)
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 can coconut milk
- freshly-cracked black pepper
- Add a small amount of olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot heated over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent. Add curry paste and cumin and cook about 1 minute.
- Add garlic and remaining spices, cooking for a few seconds (do not allow garlic to brown).
- Add about 1 cup of the chicken broth, stirring to deglaze the bottom of the pot.
- Add pureed winter squash, salt, and coconut milk. Add remaining chicken broth to reach the consistency of soup that you desire.
- Heat soup throughout until bubbly, then reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes. Season with additional salt and black pepper to taste.