by Louise Lee
Les Houston brought a mystery squash to the July Garden to Table roundtable. It grew volunteer on his property, and he was curious to know what it was. I photographed it and took it to the Hot Springs Farmers Market three Saturdays in a row until I caught up with Lee from Ouachita River Valley Farms. Lee always has a large variety of squash, and I was almost certain I’d seen this particular variety at his booth. Sure enough, he told me immediately what it was, and that he used to grow it but stopped because of its low yield.
Delicata, also called sweet potato squash, peanut squash or Bohemian squash, is a heirloom squash that was almost lost during the Great Depression because of it’s low yield. A decade ago, scientists at Cornell University created a more compact, disease-resistant bush variety, and now this especially flavorful squash is making a comeback.
It’s smaller than most winter squash, and it’s easier to work with because of its thin skin that can be removed with a vegetable peeler. Technically, delicata is a summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), but it is hard-fleshed like a winter squash. It has a sweet rich flavor that some say is better than butternut.
Sharon Dent found seeds at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.