If I only had one culinary pumpkin or winter squash to grow, Sweet Meat would be it.
For some varieties, beauty is only skin deep. Their color, size and weight may impress, but the flavor falls short. Sweet Meat not only has a creamy dense texture, but its flavor is rich, buttery and distinctive. It makes the best pies, the creamiest soups, the most savory side dishes and the tastiest muffins.
In addtion to taste, Sweet Meat blows away other squash varieties for its keeping ability. I know of no other winter squash or pumpkin that stores as well — for me that’s been about six months. It may keep longer, but usually in that time, I’ve consumed them all. In contrast, while my Galeux d’Eysines, Musquee de Provence, Long Island Cheese and Winter Luxury Pie pumpkins all tasted exceptional, they only lasted about two to three months in the cold pantry.
2009 was the first year I grew Sweet Meat winter squash, a variety well-known in the Pacific Northwest, but not in many other parts of the country. A friend gave me one seedling, and the vine (the one right behind Boz’s behind) produced three 10-15 pound squash.
As Boz looks on (in hot pursuit of the anything edible), a cabinet of pumpkins tells the story. Most of these found their way to the table and a few deflated into spongy goo before I could cook them, but only one lasted until spring: the Sweet Meat squash (as seen on the bottom shelf by Boz’s ear).
If nothing else, plant a couple seeds in the late spring and spend the next few months perfecting your baking skills; Sweet Meat makes a seriously fine pumpkin pie.
Seed Sources: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Feedco Seeds, Territorial Seed Company
Growing tips: University of Illinois Winter Squash, Storing Winter Squash and Pumpkins, Organic Gardening: Winter Squash 101
What I was blogging about one Year Ago: Commute With a View
I love this and that cabinet is just stunning!
Ohhh boy this looks beautiful Tom and your garden is absolutely gorgeous. Boz is pretty darn handsome too.
Cathy that cabinet is from a very dear friend’s grandmother, who had it on her farm on Anderson Island, Washington.
And June, Boz sends you a sloppy kiss (the only kind he knows) and I, my appreciation for your kind words (and delicious recipes).
How cool that you have a squash cupboard!
I was so excited to see you writing about squash. I LOVE squash. Squash lovers unite. I’m still trying to convert my family– it’s slow going, but they’re turning the corner. I like to use squash in ravioli, soup and just by itself. Sweet meat is new to me, but just the name alone makes me think it’s my kind of squash. Can I grow squash in a small, small area? (Think container gardening on a patio, but I have dirt to dig.)
I am always interested in finding out cultivars of anything that are good keepers. Thanks for reporting about ‘Sweet Meat’.
Renae, I’d say forget container gardening with these guys, they want some roam to bound. You can always plant them within an existing bed and have them grow among the established plants. Just make sure they have plenty of sun and water. You can also try trellising on a fence, but the fruit has to be supported in a sling or on a platform.
And Sylvie — I hope things are warming up in Virginia!
Ahhh…so perhaps that was what a certain type of pumpkin was that I had purchased and used several weeks ago. I had never seen it at the regular supermarkets, but picked it up at the local vegetable stand. It looks the same, with that pale light green color. I should have thought to save the seeds!!!
A cupboard full of squash… how wonderful! I’ve never heard of most of these varieties of squash. I think I’ll plant some this spring. As beautiful as the blue cabbage were last summer in my garden, I think I’ll diversify a little bit this year.
I would love to try this squash! I just had a kabocha recently and love the squash so much! I bet they taste 100 times better when fresh too!
Hi Tom – Thanks for the work that you do and such an entertaining blog! We are hoping to use your beautiful image for the creation of Living Seed Company – an heirloom organic seed company. We’ll send you a packet of our Founders Collection in gratitude. Please let us know. Thank you!
My plants are beautiful and I have at 20 squash BUT how do I know when they are ready to be picked?
Linda, let the plants and fruit grow all summer. In late summer around September, and even October, you can pick them. They can be different sizes and should have a hard skin and blue/green/gray color. I recommend, cutting the stem so there’s a 2-4 inch stem on the squash. If you pull the stem off from the squash it tends to shorten its shelf life and promote mold later.
Hi Tom – It’s my first time growing sweet meat squash. The vines are dead now but the fruit is still kind of green like the one you have displayed. Should I harvest now?
Hi Debbie, yep you can cut the vine from the stem, be sure to leave the stem, and store in a cool place like a basement or cold pantry.
Or you can just eat the thing now 😉
Or you can peel them, cube them and pop the chunks in a Ziploc bag and into the freezer.
Thank you, thank you. My son is setting up a new seed library at UC Santa Cruz and gave me these seeds. I wanted to make sure I did it right so I can give him back viable seeds.
How cool is that Debbie, love what your son is doing. You may check with him, but winter squash and pumpkins are notorious cross pollinators, so the seeds from the Sweet Meat squash may be a natural cross if other squash are near by and thus not true to the parent.
I did have some zucchini planted. After checking some sources I found out that there is no worry of cross pollination between that and the sweet meat.
Hi Tom – I am looking for a good pie recipe for the sweet meat squash. Do you happen to have one?
Debbie–Do I? You bet I do. I’ve made this pumpkin pie recipe using Sweet Meat Squash and it ends up being even better than pumpkin, as pumpkin tends to be more watery, and Sweet Meat meatier and denser.
Def. my favorite squash. I’m wondering about this years crop. They are the size of medicine balls and still growing. I saved the seed from last years crop, and the squash are huge, and yeallow instead of gray. The only other squash in the garden last year was tromboncino( cuc. Machata) since sweetmeat is cuc. Maxima they couldn’t have cross pollinated right? So what gives? They are a pale yellow…maybe they’ll turn gray when ripe?
[…] got two pumpkins, 5 spaghetti squash, 2 butternut squash and a Sweet Meat squash. These aren’t just normal sized squash either. We’re talking some massive […]
[…] peek: Amish Pie pumpkin and Sweet Meat winter squash share a wheelbarrow bath after a Northwest […]
I’ve grown many winter squashs, but Sweet Meat beats them all. The taste is the best, especially in a squash, black bean soup. They keep all winter for me, in my basement. I have 12 of them stored. Thanks for reminding me. I’m going down to get one for supper tomorrow!
[…] Sweet Meat Squash: Stores Well, Tas… […]
This has me so excited about my Sweet Meat squash! Right now it’s a sprouting seedling under a grow light, but there is greatness in its future. Also, Botanical Interests is another great seed company (I don’t work for them, but I do adore them).
How do you know when to pick them? I planted some in April with my regular summer garden and I have these HUGE squash. Do I really wait until fall to harvest? I may not be able to move them by then!
Hi Shelly, that is a good problem to have — too big a squash. You could harvest them now, but I’d wait for the full flavor ripening that will happen between now and the end of summer when the vines begin to die. It’s worth the wait. At that time you can also split the big thing and roast it and the seeds and then scoop out the flesh and freeze it in ziploc bags for later and multiple uses.
Thanks so much for your response. Unfortunately, the squash bugs and squash vine borers moved in and destroyed everything. I managed to salvage ONE large squash. It had 2 small soft spots on it so I am going to go ahead and cook it. I can’t believe how hard this thing is to cut!!
This insane heat is taking its toll on the rest of the garden but it did great up until now so I won’t complain too much. I will try the Sweet Meats again next year!
Shelly that’s tough to lose so much. Our cool summers are not well liked by squash borers so we’re pretty safe from such devastation, but to give you an idea of how cool our weather is, I don’t have any squash vines longer than 6 inches. I’ll see my harvest in September.
Hey, do you know when you can harvest Sweet Meat squash in north GA? I have 2 that are almost as big as the ones in the great squash cupboard, just wondering if we can pick them early here in north GA, or do they have to stay on the vine until Sept? I worry about something getting them, I have caught and killed 4 squash boring worms in my squash vines this weekend, uggghhh!
Hi Missy, if the squash is firm and seems to have reached a size that is being maintained, that is it’s not getting bigger by the day, I’d say it’s good to cut from the vine. And I also make sure the stem is rough and looks like a cork with brown ridges. If the stem is green, wait until it turns brown. You are about two month ahead of us– amazing!
Thanks do much for the info! The stem is still green, but the vine is wilted. I removed 2 SVBs from different parts of the vine, but it is very wilted and looks really bad. The one Sweet Meat squash is beautiful, will it continue to ripen on the wilted vine? My other two Sweet Meat vines look great and each have 2 big squashes in them. They are in a different part of the garden where the weeds are high. Maybe the vines are more protected by the thick weeds? Also have Seminole pumpkins just coming on. They are hopefully resistant to SVB! So glad I found your blog, thanks, thanks, most folks around here haven’t heard of Sweet Meat, they think my garden looks out of control!!
Missy if the vine wilts and doesn’t rebound, then remove the squash. The vine rot will move into the squash most likely. And as for out of control gardens, I say bring em on! And I tried to Seminole squash but we aren’t hot enough to produce much of a crop. I may try them again next year.
We live in SW Nebraska, where temps have been steadily in the high 100’s! We now have a huge sweet meat squash patch with vines 30 feet long! They came up in our compost pile! WE also have turban squash growing in the same patch. Our problem is that one good-sized fruit (about 15-20 pounds) got sun scald on the end opposite the vine, and this 2″ dia area began to rot. We had to prematurely cut the fruit from the vine. So, there is no brown “cork-like” stem, but only a fresh green stem. We do not think it possible to store this. But neither are we sure if we can cook it at this stage. What is your recommendation, Tom?
Hi Bruce, you’re right, the rot will continue to grow and ruin the whole thing. Since it’s so big, I’d experiment and cut a wedge from the squash, de-seed it and baked it until soft. Add a little butter salt and pepper and see what you think. I wouldn’t be surprise if you could slice up the firm parts and roast them and then mash the flesh up and place it in freezer bags and freeze for pies and side dishes and soups. Good luck and let me know what you do.
[…] Sweetmeat […]
This is great, I searched for the squash you recommended, and it brought me to your site. 🙂 It does looks delicious.
We had absolutely NO bees this year around my garden in Cent. OR, so none of my squash got pollinated, in the garden or greenhouse, or so I thought. Yesterday I noticed the one Sweet Meat in the greenhouse had grown up and out the crack at the top. On going outside I discovered a nice squash hanging on the side and 3 more growing in the Juniper tree where the vine had traveled.
Kelly, it was like that here up until August, no bees. My clover fields were quiet, no buzzin’ at all. Now they’re back it seems and hopefully better equipped for survival this time around. I love that your squash took off for the trees.
Hi, I was recently given a sweet meat squash and I’m looking for recipes. I’m looking forward to using the pumpkin pie recipe you’ve shared…I’m wondering–can you replace the pumpkin from any recipe with sweet meat? Thanks for this blog, I am planning on saving the seeds since they’re heirloom, and plan on sharing some. I know people in my neck of the woods are going to say, “What squash?” I can direct them to this. 🙂
Hi GK, I think sweet meat squash is even better than pumpkin in pumpkin recipes. It’s thicker, creamier and less watery. Yep it is easily interchangeable. I really like it in soup too: chunky style http://tallcloverfarm.com/5346/soups-onham-hominy-and-a-pumpkin-on-the-edge and creamy style http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/squash-soup-recipe/index.html though in this last recipe I add a roasted apple or pear for a bit of sweetness. Good luck!
Hi! I have some problems with my sweet meat squash plants, maybe you can help me? I had a nice sized one turn yellow! So we picked and ate it (it was good!), but there are 2 other nice sized ones that are staying green. Should I have let the yellow one stay on the vine till fall? I was afraid it would rot.
Also, I have a problem with some of the squashes turning yellow and rotting when they are quite small- say the size of a tennis ball. What am I doing wrong?
Thank you for your help!
The small ones that turn yellow and fall off or rot are likely not pollinated sufficiently. There are two types of blossoms on the vine, the male and the female. The female has the fruit nubbin right off the stem and the flower bud is at the other end. The male flower is flower only. Simply snip off an in-bloom fully opened male flower and swab it around the female flower, making sure you’re mixing pollen. You can also use a small paint brush to pollinate the blossoms. As for color, Sweet Meat squash in the Pacific NW stay green. The inside is orange, but the skin is grayish green. I don’t harvest mine until September, but I suspect if they are fully formed and firm you could harvest them earlier in August and maybe even July where summers are warmer. Hope this helps. Tom
Sweetmeats are looking good here in sw wa. Am starting a cupboard today. Can’t wait to try some of the good recipes.
I LOVE the foggy house photo! Both scary and romantic.
The easiest way to “cut” open a Sweet Meat is to drop it on the sidewalk or driveway and it will split open, otherwise you might need a saw or an ax. Sweet Meat should be stored at least 4 weeks before eating as it gets even sweeter in storage. The texture is drier than most squash, more like a sweet potato. If you don’t like squash this may be one to change your mind. For better pollination try planting salvia or nepeta among the squash. Those flowers are real be magnets and if you cut them back when the blooms fade they will re-bloom in 2-3 weeks.
Great tips Farmer Phyl! Thanks for sharing this info with fellow Sweet Meat Squash fans!
I have made a first endeavour with Sweet Meat and they are producing well but we seem to have some little critter (worm) boring small holes in them before we can harvest. Any suggestions as to what that might be? On a high note, our honey bees are loving the huge blossoms and we have to be careful when entering the area that we don’t disturb their work since they do not seem to appreciate it. 🙂 Thanks.
Hi Susan, Hmmm, you got me on that one. Around here, nothing is strong enough to penetrate its tough skin. Sometimes the holes are ugly but don’t affect the fruit ripening. Hopefully these holes don’t cause your sweet meat squash to rot. You may try covering the squash with reemay cover which keeps most critters off of it. Good Luck! Candy Roaster may be a good squash for you to grow too, as it’s from North Georgia originally.
Hi Tom.. thanks for the great site and great info. I grew my sweet meats in a large box,and now, at the start of September, the biggest squash I have are not as big as a volley ball. The squash are not getting sunlight due to the dense foliage cover which hasn’t been allowed to spread because of the box. Should I cut the leaves back so the fruit gets more sun?
Shelley, this is conjecture on my part, but perhaps cutting a few leaves that shade the squash itself, would help. I’ve always found as long as I pick them before the first frost, they ripen up nicely indoors. They tend to like a warmer storage, like that found in a home interior. Squash are heavy feeders so it just may take a little longer to ripen your squash because of limited space for its roots in a box. Good luck!
Thank you both for the answer and the speedy reply, Tom. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this site!
We live in NW Montana and thought I’ve tried to grow Sweet Meat several times, the growing season here is just too short to get a mature fruit….until this summer! We finally have multiple (as in 10-15) large Sweet Meat squashes! The problem is I don’t know when to harvest them. I feel like we are on borrowed time as it is (just dodged freezing weather twice now!) All our fruit is large but yellow and still soft skinned. Will they ripen if I cut them now and ripen in the garage? Can they take a little cold weather? The vines are showing stress but are still vigorous. What do you suggest?
Hi Elizabeth, I’d say harvest them before your first hard frost and find a warm place to store them. A heated garage or room in your house is great for a week to ten days, temps should be between 70-85 F to help cure the squash and harden the skin. After that the best storing temp is 50-55 degrees. Here’s a good link with more info: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/sites/default/files/documents/ec1632.pdf
Congrats on the big crop.
[…] in the name but it’s actually interchangeable as a pumpkin in all pumpkin baking recipes, read more about it here. It’s sweet and just as good as a pie […]
Growing this for the first time, plant has set 3 fruit so far, 2 of which were hand pollinated to get seed for next year. Vines going crazy, grow 6 inches overnight. I’m digging holes and filling them with manure ahead of the growing vines to encourage them to root when they reach these pockets of goodie, which they readily do and continue to produce female flowers.
Hi Helen, what a great tip, kind of like fertilizer surprise packages for the growing roots and vines. I’ll have to try that!
Growing this for the first time, garden is at 4500 feet in AZ. Only one plant survived, now with 5 or 6 squash, the largest of which measures 13″ across. Any idea what it will weigh? Seeds came from Botanical Interests, a line of seeds carried by Ace Hardware in AZ. We still have about 110 days before first frost so hoping these will mature?
HAS, you can keep the squash on the vine all the way until the frost. I would think the small one would weigh anywhere for 4-6 pounds. The good news is, sizes may vary and even small ones can be good, and ripe. They hold on and off the vine well. Sweet Meat squash has a tough skin, and dense flesh so be careful when cutting. If the squash are firm, you can always remove them from the vine and store them indoors. They’re pretty to look at and eventually great to eat!
Growing this for the first time in my garden at 4500 feet in AZ. Only one of two transplants survived and it now has 5 or 6 squash, the largest of which now measures 13″ across and is still growing happily after 2 inches of rain from Hurricane Newton last week. Any idea what it will weigh? Seeds came from Botanical Interests, a line of seeds carried by Ace Hardware in AZ. We still have about 110 days before average first light frost so hoping these will mature. I may have to spread sleeping bags over them.
Hi Tom, I need your advice. My husband grows sweet meat squash prolifically. Some years they are exquisite but I just baked one that I will be throwing out as soon as it cools. This has happened before; then I thought it was old because we had stored it for a couple of months. The one in my kitchen now is fresh out of the garden, the usual gray/green color with deep orange flesh, but it’s flavor is bitter. What did we do wrong?
Wow, Kathy, I’m scratching my head on this one, so I did a little research, and this is just a guess on may part. Because pumpkins and cucumbers and gourds are in the same family, you may have had some cross pollination that resulted in the bitterness gene being present, the same one that makes cucumbers bitter sometimes. Going forward, I would buy and plant new seeds in the coming season and keep the plants away from gourds and cucumbers if you save the seed. And regarding shelf life, usually pumpkins and winter squash get sweeter with age as the sugars start to concentrate as the fruit dehydrates when it’s stored. Good luck!
Nov. 17 and expecting our first light frost tonight. My one surviving Sweet Meat plant produced 6 squash, 9 to 15.9 lb totalling 75.0 lbs., 60% of the total weight of squash I grew from 9 plants of 4 other varieties (red kuri, buttercup, butternut, and sweet dumpling). I began cutting the winter squashes from the vine starting about a week ago, cured them in the garden till frost was forecast. Instead of letting it spread in all directions the sweet meat vines were all encouraged to go in one direction by being dragged where I wanted them to go so the plant ended up in a J shape. Total length of the outside of this curve is probably 40 feet? Will measure tomorrow. I encouraged the vines to put down fresh roots every yard or so by digging a trench a putting some sheep manure it it before laying the ladt 4 feet of a growing vine over the trench. Eventually the original base of the plant began to look peaked with leaves starting to yellow and age but the vines growing out past the rooted areas looked like youngsters, dark green and still setting fruit. There were new flowers on Nov 1 still. Haven’t cut into one yet but looking forward to doing so! Several summer and winter squash got what looked like cucumber mosaic virus in early July soon after transplanting so I pulled them out but others growing within a foot were ubaffected.
Wow, Helen, I love this detailed report. You rocked the Sweet Meat Squash growing, that’s for sure. I’ve never gotten results like that from one plant. Your strategy paid off, sheep manure and all! Helen, I’m curious where you were growing this squash, that is what zone? You’re in Arizona right?
We are gardening in what’s called the high desert, about a mile NE of Portal, AZ at 4700 feet elevation, in the mouth of a canyon. Last regular frost is about March 15 and first frost is Nov 21. We get on average about 11 inches of rain a year, in monsoons (July-August) and winter storms (Nov-April). Mid-May through July 10 are hot and very dry, so my summer gardening starts about July 1 for warm-weather crops. Fall/winter crops are in the ground by the end of August. Depending on time of day it’s in zone 7 but there are times when it feels like 5, or 9. The soil is alluvium that was deposited over the millenia and is basically sand with a lot of rocks, from pebbles to boulders the size of a big ice chest. Grasshoppers, gophers, javelina, deer and bear have to be excluded or outwitted, one way or another. We’re miles from any large-scale agriculture to we don’t seem to get invasions of squash bugs. Honeybees are all Africanized, and pretty common still, plus we have something like 400 native bee species. Grasshoppers were so bad last year I almost didn’t garden this year, but there were hardly any. Five species of snakes including rattlesnakes come in to hunt pests, and scorpions, shrews, owls and grasshopper mice work on the nocturnal stuff. The sandy soil could use more clay but it does ok with frequent watering and the addition of lots of manure from neighbor’s horses, ranch cows and sheep.
Wow, Helen, sounds like a little slice of heaven, despite some irritable bee hybrids. 😉 Thanks for sharing.
I should have added that watering is mandatory – the longest I’ve ever gone without watering is 3.5 days, after a hurricane soaked us in September 2014. I don’t yet have an automated drip system but have arranged plant spacings so that hand-watering is efficient, taking 1/2 hour most days, plus I get to inspect plants and socialize with the insects. But rain is best, and has an amazing effect on the plants; they clearly prefer it to well water, though ours is pretty good, if basic, pH around 7, same as the soil. The soil is happy with lots of added acidifying mulches like pine and oak needles and there’s no need to add lime.
Hi! You sound like you love squash plants like I do! I have a decent size area to plant. MANY breeds I want to plant of squash, How far apart for I keep them true and not cross pollinated?
Hi Michelle, you can plant them close if you wish to eat the squash the year it’s produced. But if you want to save seeds and plant them next year, I pretty sure they have to be separated quite a distance, say at least a half mile. I’m no expect here, so I’d check with your extension or online at an AG school. Good luck, and happy pumpkins!