Darnell's last name is Italian—Caffoni (CAH FONE EE)—and that's how she got mixed up with this squash in the first place. She and her late husband Rod were looking for vegetable varieties that would celebrate their Italian heritage, and they landed on C. moschata, or Tromboncino Rampicante.
The rampicante part comes from it's rampant vine growth. The plants are huge and very productive, and Darnell said hers took over the backyard this year. They grow curvy if you let them sprawl and straight(er) if you trellis them, just like cucumbers. I asked Darnell about this, and she says its because if you trellis them, the weight of the bell hanging down, gravity, pulls the neck straight. Straight squash are nice, I suppose, but I like them curvy. You never know what kind of a shape you might find.
The most interesting thing about the Tromboncincos, though, is that they can be used as both a summer or a winter squash. Right now, Darnell's selling them as winter squash—they look and taste like butternut, and they'll keep through the winter. Earlier in the season, though, in July and August, she was harvesting them green and selling and eating them as zucchini. The Tromboncino is a two for one in this regard.
Darnell recommends planting a radish next to each Tromboncino seed to ward off squash vine borer beetles, and she says once they start vining it's a good idea to keep planting radishes along the vines every few feet or so. She can't quite explain it, but if you leave the radishes in the ground, the smell and texture of the leaves is supposed to keep the beetles away. It works, she says, every time.
Usually I grow zucchini and butternuts, but next year I'm thinking of planting only Tromboncinos instead. No more zucchini crises! We could eat what we wanted as summer squash, and leave the rest to mature. Fedco sells seeds, as does Territorial. I bought a four-pounder from Darnell and saved the seeds.
The flesh I roasted and pureed and cooked up for a winter squash lasagna. Darnell mentioned this was one of her favorite ways to eat it—along with baked and stuffed and roasted as a side—and I found a recipe online from Everyday Living, October 2005. It reminds me of this, except a little more sophisticated. In other words, it's delicious.
WINTER SQUASH LASAGNA
Any number of squash varieties would work well here. Butternut, Tromboncino, Acorn, Hubbard—whatever you have on hand, really. Just make sure when you cook the squash down that you have a nice, thick puree—you don't want much water in it.
4 cups winter squash puree
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
fine-grain sea salt and ground black pepper
1 pint ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
half an 8-ounce package of lasagna noodles, cooked
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grase an 8-inch squash casserole dish with olive oil and set it aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the squash puree, sage, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In another bowl, mix the ricotta with 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Cover the bottom of the dish with lasagna noodles. Spread with half the squash mixture. Add another layer of noodles, then spread with half the ricotta mixture. Repeat layering and sprinkle the top—which should be the ricotta mixture—with the remaining Parmesan. Cover the baking dish and bake until the lasagna is heated through, about 45 minutes. Then take the cover off and continue baking until the lasagna is golden brown on top, roughly another 20 minutes. Serve hot.