Ok, so technically this is the round end of an orange Hubbard squash. It's not a Boston Marrow, though the two are look alikes, at least from this angle. While the Hubbard lacks the curved, elongated neck of the Boston Marrow, it could easily pass from behind.
I would have a picture of the real deal, rather than this imposter, but it's been impossible to find. I visited farmers' market after market, farm stand after stand, and to no avail. The Boston Marrow squash truly is disappearing.
But there is one less tangible place I've encountered it. Tucked between the careful pages of local food author Gary Nabhan's book, Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods, there it was. In bright and glossy orange, it jumped from the page with startling statistics. Brought to popularity in the mid-1800s, the squash can now be found from only two commercial seed companies: D. Landreth Seed and Heritage Harvest Seed.
Even one of the companies Nabhan lists in his book as one of the last to sell the seeds no longer does. Those have been hard to get for a while, now, the friendly operator informed me. We stopped carrying them a few years back. It's no surprise, then, that the squash are disappearing from our dinner tables.
The time to save the squash, if we decide too, is now. That's the easy part, of course. You simply order the seeds instead of Hubbard or butternut, and nurse the tiny seedlings through the spring. A year from now, you'll serve your friends a stunning pie or soup or autumn gratin, and they'll wonder at the magnificent taste. It won't be hard at all to do, you simply have to choose to.
If you need convincing, Nabhan's written a load of books on the subject. There's Where our Food Comes From, which tells the story of a great Soviet botanist who traveled the world in search of seeds to ward against hunger. There's Coming Home to Eat, on the pleasures and politics of eating locally, and plenty of other more specific reads, too. In case you need to munch while you read, here's Nabhan's recipe for the ancient New England standing dish of Boston Marrow Squash. If all else fails, you can always grab a Hubbard.
THE ANCIENT NEW ENGLAND STANDING DISH OF STEWED BOSTON MARROW "PUMPKIN"
adapted from Gary Nabhan's Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods
Slice and dice about 4 lbs. Boston Marrow squash. Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot half full with squash, and cover with water. Cook over low heat (preferably on a woodstove, where you can leave it to stew all day). When water is largely evaporated and squash is tender, remove from heat and add (to 4 cups squash) 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Mix well and serve hot.
To see the New York Times' map of Gary Nabhan's 13 food nations, click here. Roll mouse over "Clambake Nation" for a list of 12 endangered foods in our area.