Yep, I am! There aren't many other vegetables in the garden (okay, it's technically a fruit) where you plant a seed, watch it sprout and get established, then get to watch it bloom and begin growing with amazing speed, but have to watch through the entire summer to bring those fruits to maturity. Maybe corn would compare but it's still much more gradual and subtle. Tomatoes, okra, even melons, are harvested as they become ripe, with more constantly on the way; but with winter squash, your fruits set, and it's those same fruits you nurture over the months until it's finally time to harvest them. (Potatoes are another matter - you plant them, know they're growing down there, but you really don't know how many you'll get or how well they did until the moment of truth arrives. My potato harvest? Um...let's talk about squash!)
Above is a large and still-developing Rouge Vif D'Etampes fruit; it probably weighs about twelve pounds now and it hasn't even started to flatten out or turn color. Rouge Vif D'Etampes is interesting that way; whereas some squash make their eventual shape obvious even before the blooms are fertilized, this one starts out as a little yellow golf ball that doesn't show its eventual flat shape until fairly late in the game. Below is another one that is coloring up nicely. It is a bit smaller since it started forming earlier but I let several fruits form on its vine. I gave seeds to friends in Iznik as well, and there seems to be quite a bit of variation in shape; some of the fruits are deeply ribbed while others are smoother. This one is on the same plant as the one above; it grew round until just a few weeks ago when it began to flatten noticeably.
Below is another one on a different plant; all of this plant's squashes have a distinct green mottling that may fade as they mature.
Here's the same one just a couple weeks earlier. Though it had not begun to color up at all yet, it already had the green mottling.
The only "bad news" about Rouge Vif d'Etampes is the flavor reviews I've seen. The description was "delicious sweet flesh, perfect for pies and custards." Others, notably Amy Goldman, author of "The Compleat Squash," (more about her later) beg to differ. In her own words:
"This one coasts by on looks alone, being insipid and watery. It's enchanting, but I wouldn't cook with it."
Well, dang. We'll see. It was quite good when it was still yellow.
So what about Marina di Chioggia? Goldman gives it rave reviews, and even if its flavor were mediocre, I'd still be glad I planted it because it's an amazing looking thing. Unfortunately because of its situation, and the fact that a pack of dogs came into the garden are badly damaged the vines, I'll only get two of these for all my efforts. The larger of the two is just starting to develop the characteristic warts:
As a diversion from the squash, here's a picture of that nice Amaranth, "Hopi Red Dye," coming up among the leaves. There is a Rouge Vif d'Etampes lurking under the leaves though!
And then there's Futsu. I had something unusual happen with this one. Usually winter squash start blooming male, and after a succession of male flowers it finally opens the female flowers. My Futsus did exactlyl the opposite. As the fines took off, lots of male flowers developed at the nodes but they progressed very, very slowly. Meanwhile there were female flowers coming on quickly. I got two female flowers before I had any males. Since Futsu is a C. moschata, it technically can't cross with C. maxima (though it has been done artificially). But I thought "what the heck" and tried it anyway. The seeds may come out sterile but the fruits did set! Here's one of them - the picture's a little old and they're now much larger and a very dark green.
The Futsu plant is probably one of the most ornamental squash plant I've ever grown. I find the leaves beautiful with their generous white marbling, and the flowers are enormous! The mid-90s weather we have been having has seemed to put a bit of a damper on their fruit set but it's cooled a little now and some more females have started to grow instead of yellow and drop.
I've also finally found the place where gourds like to grow. Before I arrived my housemate had grown gourds in the upper garden but I've tried for 2 years in a row and despite manure and generous watering, I just can't get them to take off. I made a small arbor in the lower garden and planted a tiny ornamental bottle gourd with fruits only about 6" long at maturity. They really took off and are well on their way to to the top of the large plum tree next to them. They should be fun to decorate as Christmas or other ornaments. There are at least 14 out there and many more on the way.
If you are even remotely interested in squash, I can't say enough good things about the book "The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower's Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds," by Amy Goldman. I knew there were lots of different kinds of squash but the illustrations in this book will have you drooling. She goes through the three major squash species and gives descriptions of both common and rare varieties' uses, table quality and origins. It's interesting how many heirloom varieties are stringy and unappetising; perhaps they grew them because they didn't have another variety available and were used to them. Other types, especially some of the large pumpkins, were grown as cattle feed. I'm already planning which new (to me) varieties I'll grow next year, and I'll definitely have to clear at least another 50 square yards of planting area!
And since you made it this far (well, I'm assuming), here is a compleat-ly squash-unlrelated picture: A bloom on my neighbor's giant white Datura just on the point of popping open. This is a plant with a strategy! The scent starts emerging from the flower long before they unfurl even to this point, and like hungry campers in the food line, they swarm around the flowers trying to find the entrance. Then the flower suddenly pops open, and it's dinner time!