Friends Drift Inn Farm – What We Grow
Winter squash is our central crop at Friends Drift Inn Farm. We grow small winter squash, culinary pumpkins and cushaws, as well as fall decorative pumpkins and gourds. This page details the large winter squash we are most known for.
“I’d like coin a new term: cucurbitacean (kyoo-kur-bitase-en), a person who regards pumpkins or squashes with deep, often rapturous love”. Amy Goldman in The Compleat Squash
We Grow Cushaws and Pumpkins For Good Eats!
Winter squash, so named for their ability to store over a long winter, are what we at Friends Drift Inn Farm devote the most acreage to. We love pumpkins and cushaws, especially the heirloom winter squash with bumps, and lumps, and rainbows of colors. These large cucurbits of autumn take me back to the original Friends Drift Inn, where my grandparents sold honey, sorghum, apples, peaches, garden produce and a staggering array of winter squash and pumpkins.
Cushaws Have My Heart
At the farmers market, I am known for chiding clients who allow culinary pumpkins to deteriorate after their use as a yard ornament. Cushaws are not yard ornaments, they are good eating. Kentucky chefs including Mark Williams, Ed Lee and Jeremy Ashby appreciate the rich sweet flesh incorporating the ingredient into everything from savory sides to sweet desserts. James Beard nominee Mark Sohn, my predecessor at the Appalachian News Express outlined dozen of culinary uses for the cushaw in his book Appalachian Home Cooking: History, Culture, and Recipes.He suggests soup, bread, a riff on shepherd’s pie, and cushaw cake with bourbon sauce just for starters. Not to mention cushaw butter! The cushaw tastes so good it has been boarded on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.
It is bragging, I know. But Friends Drift Inn Farm cushaws have been featured at a James Beard event. As farmers, that was a thrill!
Some folks are intimidated by the size of cushaw. I scuffled with Ed Lee at the Bardstown Road Farmers Market for possession of a 22 pound white Lincoln cushaw. I know it was 22 pounds, because in Louisville they charge by the pound. Yes, cushaws are a big deal! (Pun intended) The thing is once you break them down and roast them, cushaw puree freezes beautifully and you are set for the long haul. It is worth the effort!
My favorite cushaw is the green striped variety. Grandpa used to line then up at the old Friends Drift Inn produce stand like an army of angry geese. When I was little, they always made me smile. Come to think of it they still do.
We also grow Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash, a white cushaw quite thick and bulky. Our seeds came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. Compared to the green striped cushaw, the Tennessee variety is much drier, less sweet, more dense and starchy, and less stringy. Personally, we think these winter squash are best as a savory dish; think of them like you would a roasting potato. We love it in beef stew coupled with red wine!
European Heirlooms That Sing in the Kitchen!
The so called Cinderella pumpkin, Musquee de Provence ,is our signature orange culinary pumpkin. Oh how we love it for soups! A French heirloom, the pumpkin has a uniquely crisp flesh. Sometimes we shave it like carrots for a salad topping. This variety also makes an awesome pie! The flavor profile is rich and pairs well with citrus and nuts.
The Musquee starts out a forest green. At maturity, it turns a coppery orange with splashes of green. I think this is the prettiest culinary pumpkin we grow.
Marina de Chiogga is an Italian heirloom, bumpy and dark green. This has a hint of nuttiness. We like this variety for making gnocchi.
We grow Long Island Cheese culinary pumpkins that are flat, tan, and slightly lobed. The cheese pumpkin is a good selection for pie baking. It has a long history in the Northeast as the ultimate pie pumpkin, with an exceptionally sweet flesh.
The tradition icons of fall, our smaller pie pumpkins are an assortment of shapes, sizes and textures. We continue to trial varieties, hoping to discover a small pumpkin that makes a remarkable pumpkin dessert.
More to Come
We will be introducing several Italian varieties of winter squash this year. We are particularly excited to bring the so called “violin” butternut to market; a rough skinned buckskin colored wonderment that is at once eye-appealing and hunger satisfying.
At the special request of clients we are also adding several Asian heirloom pumpkin varieties to the Friends Drift Inn Farm line-up.
How We Grow
Winter squash are in the fields from May to October. That is a long time to devote the garden space these babies require, but we think it is worth it. We push the limit on some pumpkins, which require a full 120 days to mature. That is the length of our growing season in zone 6b.
As part of our efforts to control insect pests without the use of sprays, we grow hubbard squash around the perimeters of the pumpkin patch. Hubbards are a trap crop, drawing the pests to their leafy vines which are more attractive to bugs for who knows what reason. We also choose varieties of squash, like the cushaw, which is known to be resistant to beetles and vine borers which can decimate a crop in a matter of two days.
In Kentucky wilt and mildew continue to be a challenge. We strive to grow without the benefit of fungicides. It is our goal to provide a bee friendly environment.
Our pumpkins and cushaws, along with our winter squash are harvested by hand. It is hard work. We wear long sleeves, gloves, and long pants tucked in our boots as we harvest. Fall seems to bring out creepy crawlers, so we proceed with caution. We literally harvest pumpkins and cushaws by the truckload.
Pumpkins do best if they are cured for a few weeks, before bringing to market. Demand is so strong, we usually bring them on advising our customers to store them in a cool place. Most winter squash accumulate higher sugar content as they are stored.
Our culinary pumpkins are a favorite with chefs, and we hope they will become part of your food traditions too!
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