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Banana squash are cylindrical in shape and imposing in size, reaching up to two to three feet in length and averaging eight inches in diameter. Though the average weight is about ten pounds, a heavy Banana squash can weigh up to thirty-five pounds. Their thick-walled rind, when ripe depending on variety can be salmon pink, green, blue, or variegated in color. Its flesh is thick, firm, dense and meaty with a true pumpkin orange color. Regardless of the monumental size of the squash itself, its seed cavity holds few and small seeds. The cooked flesh of the Banana squash is fragrant, rich and earthy sweet. Among squash enthusiasts, it is noted that the blue and green varieties offer a superior flavor when compared to the pink.
Banana squash is available year-round with a peak season in the fall and winter months.
Banana squash is a member of the winter squash family and botanically a part of Cucurbita maxima. There are far more than one single cultivar of Banana squash, including pink and blue varieties, hybrid varieties (often labeled as "rainbow"), and the highly regarded heirloom varieties, sibley and pike's peak. Regardless of what variety you knowingly or unknowingly choose, Banana squash is considered a superior variety of winter squash.
Banana squash provides vitamins A, C, some of the B vitamins, calcium, iron and fiber.
As Banana squash is a true winter squash type, it can be used in place of other orange-flesh colored winter squash varieties such as butternut and kabocha. Banana squash is in its perfect culinary element when roasted and added to soups, chili, and stews. Sliced into cubes or rings it can be roasted, steamed, baked and grilled. Banana squash favors the pairing of rich and bold partners such as butter, creme fraiche, aged sheep's cheeses, cream, pork belly, lamb and truffles. The best herb and spice pairings include thyme, bay, sage, rosemary, cumin, curry, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Proper storage conditions can extend the post-vine life of Banana squash, as well as winter squash in general, for up to six months. The best way to lengthen the post-harvest is to store them in a cool (fifty to sixty degrees Fahrenheit) unlit area with relative humidity.
The popularity of Banana squash has since its introduction predominantly been in the Americas, most notably in the western states of North America. The pink varieties of Banana squash are popular among the Mennonite farmers of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
Squashes of Cucurbita maxima can trace their origins back to South America and made their way to North America sometime after 1492. Seeds from an archaeological site in Peru matched the distinct identity of today's Banana squash cultivar. It would be traded and traveled to other regions within the Americas, yet maintain its identity as a true New World crop. The family of Banana squashes were introduced into the United States by R.H. Shumway in 1893. Though the Shumway seed catalog would be the initial Banana squash orientation within the U.S., other seed catalogs would soon follow and by the early twentieth century the Banana squash was becoming a popular winter squash variety. Somehow, though, it would eventually fall out of favor to modern winter squash commonplace varieties such as butternut and acorn squash and simply more fashionable squashes such as baking pumpkins. Most Banana squash variety seeds are housed among heirloom seed savers and rarely find themselves in the commercial marketplace. Perhaps a secondary reason is that the Banana squash requires long periods of warm season weather to reach maturity, often staying on the vine for up to one hundred twenty days, requiring over a half-year to cultivate and making for a mere single crop annually.
Recipes that include Banana Squash. One is easiest, three is harder.