This squash reminds me of the movie Men In Black where Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are an alien crime-fighting duo. (They’re not aliens. They’re fighting aliens.) The climactic scene occurs at the New York State Pavilion, site of the 1964 World’s Fair. The alien villain scales the Pavilion’s towers, attempting to escape in the abandoned UFOs repurposed as a tourist attraction.
Compare the Pavilion to the Green Tint Patty Pan Squash.
Photo Credit: http://tentoftomorrow.com/default.aspx
See what I mean? Squash from outer space.
According to Taylor’s Guide to Heirloom Vegetables: A Complete Guide to the Best Historic and Ethnic Varieties by Benjamin Watson, this patty pan squash, also called Benning’s Green Tint Scallop Squash, was introduced to the United States in 1914. It qualifies as an heirloom variety because it’s at least 50 years old, it can reproduce on its own from a seed, and it has a ‘history.’ Not a history as in ‘see those squash over there, they have history.’ An heirloom vegetable must have history as in ‘the seeds for this squash were carried on a ship across the ocean by immigrants to preserve their prized squash that had been passed down from generation to generation,’ or ‘the seeds for this squash have been saved by Native Americans who cultivated this variety that is native to the U.S and was an important staple in their community.’
Each heirloom vegetable is connected to a family or group. Plant hybrids (two different plants crossed together with sterile seeds) and vegetables with modified genes don’t make the heirloom cut. Heirloom vegetables are about small scale, tradition, and taste. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much about this patty pan squash’s back-story other than the name Benning and the year the squash was first recorded.
Amy Goldman, The Squash Queen (I made that up, I don’t know if she is really called that) and the author of The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds won the grand championship with 38 blue ribbons for heirloom squash at her local county fair. She got most of her seeds and advice from the Squash Curator (I did not make that up) at Seed Saver’s Exchange, an organization that has collected a huge number of heirloom squash, among other vegetables, at risk for extinction. Goldman’s book features 150 endangered heirloom squash. She encourages us to support vegetable diversity before it’s too late.
And I thought squash was the vegetable everybody tries to leave on their neighbor’s porch because they grew way more than they could eat!
Lyle Stanley of Gee Creek Farm is keeping squash like the Green Tint Scallop alive. He recommended that I slice it pretty thick, sauté it in some oil, and watch it like a hawk. “If you overcook it, it will turn to mush,” he said. You can eat the skin, as Patty Pan is a summer squash, harvested before the rind hardens and the fruit matures. This is different than a winter squash that is grown to maturity and has a hard rind. You can grow patty pan squash to maturity, but it won’t taste very good.
I followed Lyle’s instructions and cooked it just right. It has the same texture as zucchini and yellow squash, the only other summer squashes I’ve tried to date, but more meaty and sweet. If it wasn’t 100 degrees in Portland, I’d make Patty Pan tempura. But for now I’m just happy I found a new veggie I like. And by buying it, I’m doing my part to support vegetable diversity in the U.S!
Want more veggies? Check out The Weekly Veggie
Want more? Comb the archives.
An American native
A father’s legacy
The vegetarian-cooking pioneer
Cracking a Filipino favorite