The big, the blue and the ugly

This gigantic winter squash grows on you (so to speak).

One fall, at a friend’s cabin, we followed a vine with huge prickly leaves growing at the edge of the yard. It twisted through abandoned car parts and rusted appliances, and through knee-high grass and sandy patches. Finally we found the pot of gold at the end of the vine: a blue Hubbard squash. It was the size of a small dog, and the bumpy blue-gray skin was so thick we had to use an axe to split it apart.

But once we had wrestled it into pieces that would fit into a kitchen, we realized we had stumbled upon a bonanza. Bags of squash, roasted and then frozen, became blazing hot squash chili and “pumpkin” (squash) pie. We ate that one squash for months.

We’ve never grown blue Hubbard squash ourselves, mainly because we’ve never had a yard big enough to hold it. But if you have the acreage, and you have an axe, it’s well worth throwing a few seeds in the ground near that old washing machine.

Common name: Blue Hubbard squash
Botanical name: Cucurbita maxima
Plant type: Vegetable
Zones: Annual
Matures: From 95 to 120 days, depending on variety
Family: Cucurbitaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun or part shade
  • Soil: Well-drained, loose, rich
  • Moisture: Average to moist

Care

  • Mulch: Enough to keep roots moist and help control weeds.
  • Pruning: None needed
  • Fertilizer: Use aged manure or compost at planting, and feed regularly throughout the growing season.

Propagation

  • Seed

Pests and diseases

  • Vulnerable to powdery mildew and blossom-end rot.
  • Aphids, beetles, squash vine borers and slugs can be problems.

Garden notes

  • Because blue Hubbard takes more than three months to mature, you’ll need to start seeds indoors (about four to six weeks before planting time) if you live in a place with a short growing season.
  • Outdoors, they’ll do best in full sun. Vines often grow 20 to 30 feet. They can be trained on a fence, although the fruits are so heavy that they’ll require a substantial sling to hold them up.
  • Watch for signs of the squash vine borer—for instance, a section of vine that dies suddenly. Cut open the vine lengthwise to find the small white borer grub. Kill the grub and bury the vine; the vine should root, and if you’ve caught it in time, the fruits on that branch will be saved.

All in the family

  • Blue Hubbard squash is a member of Cucurbitaceae—commonly called the gourd family. Many other edibles are members of this family, including pumpkins, zucchini, watermelon and cucumbers. Fun fact: the plant from which we get the loofah sponge (Luffa aegyptiaca) is also in this family.
  • Other types of winter squash include acorn, delicata, turban, butternut and buttercup.

Where to buy
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, rareseeds.com
High Mowing Organic Seeds, highmowingseeds.com
Victory Seeds, victoryseeds.com