Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cucurbita maxima 'Galeux D' eysines', 'Marina di Chioggia' and Sautéed Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Cucurbita maxima (koo-KER-bih-ta MAKS-ih-muh)

The plant family Cucurbitaceae (koo-ker-bih-TAY-see-ee) consists of gourds, zucchini, watermelon, pumpkins, some cucumbers, squash... and are mostly monoecious, a separate male and female flower on the one plant. This year we added two most unusual heirloom varieties of squash to the garden, and I simply love the looks of both.

Cucurbita maxima 'Brodé D'Galeux Eysines'

Like a large wheel of cheese, I am captivated by this most unusual salmon-colored wart-covered squash. A work of art, this French heirloom originates from Eysines, a village in Gironde, Bordeaux. The name translates to embroidered with pebbles from Eysines and is often shortened to Galeux d'Eysines.

There is not enough room in our regular vegetable garden because the vines are ginormous, so we prepared a spot on a slight slope near our hoop house and ran the vines back and forth rather than allow the tentacles to sprawl into the hinterland. Most of the small fruits would suddenly disappear, eaten by something, so we netted the plant and several survived.

The younger squash are smooth and pale in color, and as they age, the high sugar content causes the skin to crack and the peanut-like growth develops as protection. A heavy feeder and with a long growing season (95 to 110 days), it needs room to grow in full sun and with fertile, evenly moist and well-draining soil. Plant your seedling once any danger of frost has passed and harvest when the skin is firm and orange and prior to the first frost date in the fall.

On average they weigh 10-20 pounds at maturity, but pictured above is one at 31 pounds. Once harvested, store in a cool location for upwards of 6 months, and supposedly they improve with age.

A smooth silky nutty flavor, these are used in roasting, baking, soups, and gratins. The stout seeds are also said to be sweet and delicious: coat with olive oil, sprinkle with a seasoned salt of choice and toast them in the oven.

I am as anxious to try these squash as I was to grow them, and am not sure how long I will wait, but at some point, soups on and I'll let you know when.

Cucurbita maxima 'Marina di Chioggia'

This large heirloom squash traces its roots to the coastal town of Chioggia, Italy, on the Adriatic coast near Venice. Marina di Chioggia translates to Chioggia Sea Pumpkin. Its dark green and bumpy, turban-shaped form averages 7-20 pounds and with leaves that span 10-14 inches. The rich sweet flesh is deep yellow-orange and delicious in pies, soups and sauces or baked. In Italy it is prized for gnocchi and for roasting, and personally, I am looking forward to making some ravioli.

Have you ever stuffed the blossoms? (see below)

Sautéed Stuffed Squash Blossoms from Diana's kitchen

12 squash and/or zucchini blossoms
Ricotta cheese, 1/4 to 1/3 cup
shredded Mozzarella cheese, 1/4 to 1/3 cup
fresh basil, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup Panko or bread crumbs
extra virgin olive oil

homemade marinara sauce, optional

Collect your blossoms in the early morning and leave some of the stem for ease of preparation. Inspect for any bees or bugs inside the flower, carefully handling the delicate blossom. If you prefer, gently remove any stamen inside.

In a bowl combine the ricotta and mozzarella cheese, basil, a little salt and pepper to season. Gently open a few petals of the flower and with a teaspoon, stuff it with the ricotta mixture, enough to fill the cup and still fold the petals around; twist the top of the petals together to seal.

Lightly beat the egg in a shallow bowl. Place the panko or bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.

Dip each stuffed blossom into the egg, then into the crumbs, and fry a couple minutes on each side in olive oil until golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels to drain any excess, sprinkle with a touch of salt, and serve with a side of marinara sauce (or not). Delicious!

Note: The measurements above are approximate and dependent upon how many blossoms you intend to stuff.