When is a Zucchini Not a Zucchini?

When it’s a Long Pie Pumpkin!

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When it comes to gardening, we imagine that most folks have in mind that one “special” thing they really want to grow simply because it can be grown in one’s backyard. For us…well, we actually have two things: watermelons and pumpkins, both for the simple fact that nothing can compare to either fresh. (Okay, so the same is true for just about any fruit or vegetable…) When we started trying to grow both melons and pumpkins a few years back, we knew we’d be in for a challenge with the melons, and we continue to have no luck. (But we’re going to keep trying!) However, we figured we’d have better luck with pumpkins because numerous farms in our area grow them (not a lot of watermelon growers up north). So we saved some seeds from a store-bought pumpkin a couple years back, and each spring, we’ve tried planting them. At most, we’ve successfully gotten the seeds to germinate, but nary has a single pumpkin ever appeared.

In planning out this year’s garden, we almost gave up on pumpkin…until we found out about the Long Pie Pumpkin, thanks to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The description from their catalog made the Long Pie Pumpkin seem too good to be true:

Also known as Nantucket Pie Pumpkin. This variety dates back to at least 1832, when it was grown in Maine. The 5-8 pound fruits are picked anytime after they begin to change color to orange; they will ripen successfully in storage. Makes the most amazing pies!

Further reading on them brought up the comparison (in shape and size, at least) to zucchini. And since we had had such success with zucchini, we thought that maybe we’d have success with the Long Pie Pumpkin. Good thing we trusted ourselves with this, because the results have been wonderful, so far!

As you see in the picture above, we now have three Long Pie Pumpkins ripening inside. The only downside is that, at a certain point, they look an awful lot like zucchini – they grow in a similar shape, on similar looking plants, and have the same coloring (dark green) when they are young. The key difference is that the Long Pie will develop a bright orange spot on its underside, the side that rests on the ground. Once you see that, you pick the squash and put it someplace cool inside to ripen. Over the course of several months, the squash are supposed to turn bright orange, at which point they are ready to cook like pumpkins.  If that happens, as our Long pies are still quite yellow and green, it’ll be very exciting! We’ve read that the ripening process can take awhile, with people making pumpkin pies at Easter with the squash they had picked the year before, so if we have any sort of update on ours, it likely won’t be until next year.

Slooooooowly turning orange.
Slooooooowly turning orange.

By the way, curious to know what happens if you mistake a Long Pie for a zucchini? Well, being the novice pumpkin growers that we are, we did exactly this. We picked an early Long Pie thinking it was a zucchini, and the results were…well, they weren’t completely disastrous, but they weren’t great. Unripe Long Pies have very tough skin, like, and outer layer that’s almost impossible to cut through.  We tried to grate ours (for fritters and bread), and not only was it extremely difficult, but the skin grated off into little, inedible shards. Not knowing any better, we figured that we had just picked a really unripe zucchini, so we completely peeled the squash and just used the insides. The inner flesh cooked up fine like zucchini, but it didn’t have much taste.  That probably should have been our second clue. Only once we had used up most of the squash did we figure out that we had used up an unripe Long Pie.

Ah well. At least we lived to tell the tale, and now we know!

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