Never before yesterday had I seen such a squash as this. Nestled beneath the crawling leaves and vines of Jean Iverson's squash patch, it lay vast and tough against the straw.
It was the first thing to catch my eye as the 87-year-old organic gardener gave me the tour of her unruly Cummaquid plot. "When my parents bought the land," she divulges, "there were 34 acres. An acre each for strawberries and asparagus alone." Over the years, the fields were sold to golfers and vacationers until only Iverson's 3/4 of an acre and the old farmhouse remained.
That's fine with her, she tells me, though it'd be nice to have a bit more saved. The area is quiet, beyond the daily passings of the train and the overhead chatter of gathering crows, and there's no place she'd rather be. "We have to work with what God gives us," she laughs, looking up to the sky and then down to the earth. "Sometimes it's too wet, like this year," she adds, "and some seasons too dry."
Though she's laid back about what she's given by the powers that be, there are a few measures she'll take to give her crops a boost. After all, she makes her living selling the fruits and vegetables at Kelly's Farm Stand out front. The other day, she tells me, she sprayed the squash leaves with a baking soda mixture in hopes of fighting the mildew that had begun to spread across the thicket of green.
She can't tell if it's working yet, but the hubbard squash she hopes especially will make it through. "I've got it marked for a friend," she smiles. "So long as the crows don't get to it first." The best variety for keeping, the hubbard is at least 10 or 15 pounds—a welcome gift at any winter table. Given its thick, gnarled shell, we both agree it's got a good chance.
BAKED HUBBARD SQUASH
Serves as many as you'd like it to with a good sized squash.
Peel squash and cut into cubes. Bake in a shallow Pyrex pan with 1/4 inch of water. Sprinkle with butter, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bake 30 minutes at 350. Uncover and baste, adding more butter if necessary, and cook until tender (at least 30 minutes). Enjoy hot.