There are coyotes denned right across the road, which is one of the reasons we have Mac the Marshmallow. Mac is a 110lb Great Pyrenees dog, a livestock guardian breed the approximate size of a shetland pony. Asher, my four year old, has been known to ride him.
We call him “Mac the Marshmallow” because he’s the color of one, and has the same personality. He’s fearless when it comes to predators, but so gentle one of my cats will stick his head in Mac’s mouth without worry. When a rabbit got out of cage at our house, Mac caught it, and, instead of doing it harm, washed it. For hours. The rabbit was extremely wet and peeved (Pyrs are very slobbery) but entirely safe in the paws of my dog.
Apparently, though, Mac has a mortal terror. It is something that intimidates him more than anything else. He cowers before it. It….is…Hubbard Squash. Yeah, this:
It certainly is big and grey and warty, and lord knows, the thing weighs 15lbs if it weighs an ounce, but I’m not quite sure what Mac is scared of. But boy is he scared.
You see, night before last we had threats of frost – temps were supposed to dip into the mid-thirties with frost “in the upper elevations” which sometimes means “the top of the Adirondacks” but sometimes means “us.” So we got ready – brought in all the peppers and tomatoes, covered the basil, and harvested the squash, pumpkins and gourds. There were a lot of them – I mean a lot, and some of them ended up sitting on the floor of my kitchen, including a big blue hubbard like the one you see there.
Mac, coming in to eat breakfast began to whimper the moment he saw it. He cowered behind me, and then ran around the corner, looking frantically at this terrible, dog-devouring squash. Back behind me, making the saddest noises in creation. Mac attempted to make himself very, very small – not very successfully, frankly. The squash just sat there – as is its custom – pretending it was not fierce and dog-devouring. Finally, after laughing at my poor dog for an extended period and calling Eric and the boys to witness this, I removed the squash so that Mac could get down to the critical work of eating enough calories to support his frame (approximately 1 bazillion, plus whatever eggs he manages to steal). The squash remained dormant while I moved it, lulling me into a false sense of security.
I, however, was not lulled, and will be hacking the demon squash up with an axe later on this week during part of the flow of guests that comes through our sukkah during the Jewish holiday that starts tonight. We invite guests every meal we can – and that’s a great excuse for opening up a Hubbard, which is dry and sweet and fragrant and delicious – even if it does take an axe to get through the rind and a crowd to eat it all. And I’ve got a bunch more for meals plus dog intimidation!
Hubbards are my personal favorite squash – except, of course, for my other three or four favorites. In this I am like my four year old, whose favorite color is pink, and whose other favorite colors are red and purple and orange and green and blue. I’m not very good at narrowing things down.
Consider the “Winter Luxury” pumpkin:
As far as I know, these have absolutely no dog intimidation powers whatsoever. They make up for that grievous lack, however, by their astonishing flavor. A roasting winter luxury pumpkin requires no cooking down for pies at all – and the smell is the most delicious thing you’ve ever inhaled – a combination of essence of pumpkin, nut butter and a sweet, creamy odor that is totally indescribable.
They are gorgeous – that netting you see over the orange makes them especially lovely, and they are productive. Their own real weakness is that they don’t keep especially well – by the end of December, they are gone. But oh, how we enjoy them in the meantime. Like all short-season things, one must take them in their time and then long for the next year to come round again.
I don’t actually know how well Hokkaido Blue Squash keep – the reason is that they never last long enough for us to find out.
They are small, the perfect size for two people to split, and so delicious – nutty and very dry, with a complex sweetness to them. They are always the first squash we eat, and while I’ve heard they keep fairly well, unless I grow a whole bed of them some year, we’ll never know.
My fourth favorite (as Asher would put it) is pictured above, the Seminole Pumpkin. This is a bit marginal for my area, so we didn’t harvest these, but covered the long vines with blankets in the hope of avoiding a frost. As it happens, we did, and so I’m hopeful they’ll mature. In a good year, they are delicious, and the heat we’ve had this year has made it likely that I’ll get a good crop. They are worth some coddling – they make the best squash risotto and soup I’ve ever eaten.
I grow some of my squash in a neighbor’s garden so that I can save seed and still not have to narrow down my seed catalog choices to a mere two or three varieties. I’m terrible about allowing them to roam, too, so the harvest of squash inevitably involves chasing them down from other beds and around corners where the vines have roamed. This year, I left the frame of my low hoophouse up on the bed where early spring spinach had been nutured after I planted pumpkins and gourds there, and I think I’ll try that again – many of the squash and gourds grew hanging up the framework. Not only did it look cool, it reduced soft spots where they touched the ground.
Today, as autumn begins, so does the season of squash’s mastery – we put extra squash in biscuits in bread, roast them, soup them, puree them. They take up space and are piled up in corners – since they are best kept at low human temperatures if you come to visit, you may find yourself bedding down with a basket of butternuts or pumpkins. The best of them – the Hubbards, the butternuts – they keep all winter and into the spring, rich, sweet and delicious as long as we need them.
Squash and pumpkins are king now – and apparently they know it, and are starting to boss the dog around.