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Garden Lifestyle

Squash Mystery Solved

The flying-saucer-shaped scallop squash can be a bit baffling to even seasoned gardeners. But after this gardening season, the mystery is solved.

  • White bush scallop squash, also called pattypan squash, can be harvested and eaten while small.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Scallop squash are an attractive vegetable with fancy edges that can be steamed, grilled, stuffed, baked or fried like other kinds of summer squash.  
    Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton

I know this might sound crazy, especially since I’ve been growing vegetables for years, but I was always puzzled by the funny-shaped summer squash called scallop or pattypan. I’d see the cute-as-a-button squash in baskets at the farmer’s market and couldn’t imagine how they grew or how to cook them.

They remained a mystery to me until this season when I decided to turn into a garden detective and solve this one.

I picked up a packet of Baker Creek white bush scallop squash seeds because the plant description was so intriguing. “This is an ancient native American squash, grown by the Northern Indians for hundreds of years,” according to the back of the seed packet. This variety dates to 1591 and claims to still be one of the best tasting and yielding varieties around.

Because this squash is described as a heavy feeder, I amended the garden bed with plenty of compost, planted the seeds, and used manure tea to feed it throughout the season.

The bushes were actually vines that grew about 2 feet tall, produced big beautiful blossoms, and liked room to spread out. It seemed like the plants took their time to fruit, as if they knew I was waiting to see how these flying-saucer-shaped squash would form.

Then one day I noticed a teeny-tiny squash with frilly edges beginning to take shape at the base of one of the large squash blossoms. It grew up and then the weight of it made it grow down as it grew bigger and thicker.

But only part of the mystery was solved.

After I picked some of the pattypans while they were small, I stood in the kitchen for quite some time trying to decide how to prepare them. Their strange shape doesn’t lend itself to slicing and I wasn’t sure they’d look right if quartered. So I just steamed them whole as a tasty side dish for dinner.

Instead of harvesting them all while small, I let some grow until they turned a brilliant white and then picked them. These were lightly steamed, hollowed out, stuffed with a veggie and cheese mixture, and then baked.

Now that I’ve solved the mystery of growing these funny-shaped squash, next year I’ll try cracking the case of another perplexing vegetable: kohlrabi.

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