Q. For as long as I can remember, my family has enjoyed baked cushaw at Thanksgiving. It is a crook-necked squash that tastes better than pumpkin when cooked correctly. Cushaw is difficult to find, and the family had to go without last year. Any thoughts on the best place to find one?
Cushaw, or C. mixta, is an heirloom plant. With plants, heirloom simply means that seeds can be passed down and replanted and will remain “true” to the original plant.
Unfortunately, the family of winter squashes is a big one, and tracking down one particular heirloom squash can be difficult. But it may be getting a little easier. With the growing interest in local food and old-variety vegetables, we're starting to see many heirlooms turning back up, particularly in farmers markets, but even in many supermarkets.
Cushaw seeds are available through some heirloom-seed catalogs, such as www.rare seeds.com. If you don't have a garden, you could approach a farmer at a local market. Sometimes if you're willing to buy the seed, you can find a farmer who is willing to try growing it.
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That won't help you in time for this Thanksgiving, but you might be able to “plant a seed,” so to speak, in time for next year.