Friends Drift Inn Farm
“A few of the vegetables we planted are seldom seen today, such as cymlings, almost flat, rounded, white squash with scalloped edges which matured early and was usually served fried.” Edna Lewis, the Grande Dame of Southern Cooking
We Grow Amazing Varieties of Summer Squash and Zucchini!
Few things give me as much pleasure as growing and preserving heirloom varieties of summer squash and bringing them back into the food consciousness of our Appalachian community.
We love summer squash at Friends Drift Inn Farm, and so do our customers. It seems no matter how much we grow, we sell out. Summer Squash and Zucchini are farmers market staples. What makes Friends Drift Inn Farm’s offerings unique is our attention to heirloom varieties and flavor profiles. All squash are not created equal!
We are known at market for our heirloom Italian Summer Squash, a specific strain Friends Drift Inn has selected that is meaty and flavorful, holding up in casseroles and sauces and most incredible simply skilleted up with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. To keep up with demand, we often plant this variety four times staggered over several months.
Summer squash mature on an average of 50-60 days from planting. To get a jump on the season, we start the first planting in flats about two weeks before our last frost date, April 15. We put transplants in the fields by hand, planting in raised beds which allows the soil to warm more quickly. Summer squash do not like chill. We cover the early crop with Gro-Guard, an agricultural fabric used on low tunnels to protect plants from chilling in the early spring or late fall and winter. As the days warm, the fabric is removed for later use.
As we choose varieties we look at several factors. Taste of course our foremost concern. However, we are a small farm. If we can find bush varieties that do not sprawl we favor them so there is more room for other produce. We look for varieties that can stand up to insect pests; we are not ones that like to spray. If a variety is known for to be resistant to wilt and blight, you can bet we are interested. We have trialed several hybrid varieties, and found them lacking on all counts. For us, heirloom summer squash is a tried and true approach to market gardening.
Many farms in urban areas sell squash blossoms. Male squash blossoms are usually harvested for stuffing with cheese and frying. Male flowers greatly outnumber the female flowers which produce the actual squash. Friends Drift Inn does not sell squash blossoms, preferring to leave the flowers for our bees and pollinators.
Varieties of Summer Squash
Classified as “Cucurbita pepo,” summer squash come in an amazing array of colors and shapes. Some are widely known, others not so much. We lead with our Italian summer squash, as discussed above. For us, this is the ultimate summer squash and the one we grow for our own table.
Edna Lewis referred to scallop squash, as cymlings. A traditional heirloom squash here in the Upper South, we like “flying saucer squashes” cut and prepared like French fries, and served with a bourbon tomato jam. White scalloped squash are also a fun substitute for apples; fried in butter with sugar, cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla; they make a surprisingly good breakfast treat.
Friends Drift Inn Farm grows Early Yellow Prolific Straightneck which is easier to work with in the kitchen than their crookneck counterpart. Yellow squash make a lovely addition to stir-fried vegetable medleys. They are a favorite for squash pickles and are an ingredient in our signature squash jam. (Jam not available commercially) We grow these for market, and for the restaurant trade.
Black Beauty, a widely grown heirloom zucchini, is our “go to” squash for freezing. This is the squash you want to make zucchini bread. Black Beauty squash are favorites mixed with yellow squash for a colorful quick fix summer side dish.
Ronde de Nice is an Italian summer squash not likely found in your local grocery because it bruises easily. Even for the short transport to farmers market, we handle these gingerly. For all their finicky ways, the flavor is rich and meaty. Hollow out the seed cavity, brush with olive oil, and stuff with whatever suits your fancy and bake. We like rice as a stuffing, but quinoa, beef, and herbed breadcrumbs all compliment this variety.
Each year, we trial heirloom varieties to add to our farmers market offerings. This year will be no different. Our trial vegetables are only available in limited quantities. Come by our booth at the Pikeville Farmers Market to see what’s new.
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