9.22.2011

The Local Food Report: long pie pumpkin

Peter Burgess is into local history. He named his fields in Truro Six Pence Farm after he found an original 17th century six pence while he was out there digging one day. And when it comes to vegetable varieties, he prefers to grow those with some age and a story.


That's the Long Pie Pumpkin. When it's underripe, it looks sort of like an overgrown zucchini, but once it blushes orange, it's more of a pumpkin torpedo. Peter found out about it through the Fedco seed catalog, and he grew it for the first time this year.

It's said to have come over to Nantucket in 1832, aboard a whaling ship from the Isle of St. George in the Azores off of Portugal. It got popular with local farmers, and for a while it was simply called the Nantucket Pumpkin. Eventually the variety made its way north, and by the 1930s it was a favorite with growers in Androscoggin County, near where I grew up in Maine.

Farming started to peter out on Nantucket and the variety got less common in Maine, but a few growers kept it alive. According to researchers in Waldoboro, a man named John Navazio saved the seeds for years, and eventually went to work at a company called Garden City Seeds. They put the variety up for sale, and slowly but surely, it's making a comeback. RAFT listed it as an endangered heirloom last year, and in response, Chef's Collaborative sponsored a Long Pie Pumpkin "grow-out." Farmers all over New England grew the variety, told their neighbors about it, and with any luck, convinced a few more to grow it this season.


Peter Burgess, for one, is a fan. He says Long Pie Pumpkin is very resistant to squash borers and squash beetles, and that you can pick it early and let it ripen inside if you have a cold growing season. Also, most importantly, he says it makes the best pie ever, because it's sweet and meaty and cooks down like a squash.

My grandmother's recipe for pumpkin pie is up over here. I plan to get my hands on an orange torpedo asap.

6 comments :

Laura said...

Pumpkin Torpedo! That sounds delicious. Thanks for the natural history bit. You are a fantastic story-teller, and I've been coming back to this blog for a while because of the nice scenes of food and community that can always be found here. Thanks, Elspeth!

Anonymous said...

Elspeth, so happy to see you covering long pie pumpkin! I found it in the FEDCO catalog about five year ago, and it has been my favorite pumpkin ever since. I read that Mainers used to stack them up in their root cellars like firewood, which I can believe. You get so much "meat" out of one long pie pumpkin. Thanks for a great report. ~A Maine Reader

Elspeth said...

Laura, thank you! It's nice to have readers who appreciate food and community so much.

And to my Maine reader, I LOVE that image! I can just imagine Mainers going out back to pick out a few "logs" for Thanksgiving pies.

All the best,
Elspeth

Anonymous said...

Yum yum, let's make a pie this weekend! xo anna

Very Vanilla said...

Wow, glad I found this post. I just got one of these in my CSA and wanted to make sure it was good for pie. Great info on the history!

Dani said...

Even though this is about a year old I'm so glad I found this! We just found out that the huge patch of what we thought were watermelons growing at our nursery turns out to be a patch of Long Pie Pumpkins! We never planted any seeds they cropped up from our compost pile. They are beautiful and now we know what they are!

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