New varieties of winter squash reflect considerable breeding progress in appearance, culinary appeal and field performance.
The University of New Hampshire’s program, led by Dr. Brent Loy, has been producing varieties with greater uniformity in growth habit, more restricted vines and earlier maturity. In addition, a new interspecies hybrid should be released soon.
Breeding for disease tolerance also remains a high priority. Outstanding Seed Co., for example, is focusing on both downy and powdery mildew. Abbott and Cobb is experimenting for greater yields and better eating quality. Rupp Seeds is currently evaluating a new processing large butternut variety that has a significantly larger neck.
With greater availability of hybrids, more new varieties exhibit traits such as uniformity and higher yields. The following new and nearly new varieties were available to us by press time.
Angel Hair, a personal-size hybrid spaghetti squash, produces prolific yields of yellow egg-shaped fruit in 88 days. Like its namesake, its deep orange flesh resembles extra-thin spaghetti. It averages 1.3 pounds, and its vine-type plant tolerates powdery mildew race 2. In addition, this D. Palmer Seed Co. variety has a long storage life.
Blue Delight, Outstanding Seed Co.’s hybrid version of Jarradale, has flattened, ribbed, blue-gray fruit with a rough-textured rind. Its 10 to 15-pound fruit features sweet, dry, orange flesh. The large vines produce fruit in 105 days.
Sweet and refreshing flavor characterize Blue Moon. This D. Palmer hybrid hubbard variety tolerates zucchini yellow mosaic virus. Flattened globe-shaped, mottled blue-grey fruit with orange/yellow flesh matures in 100 days.
At 5 to 8 pounds, hybrid butternut Discover produces in 100 days. Bred for eating quality, hybrid vigor and yield potential by Outstanding Seed, this variety’s flesh excels for peeling, fresh-cut, processing or fresh-market uses.
Harris Moran describes its Fairytale as “perfect on your porch and on your plate.” This dual-purpose, flat, ribbed, brown-speckled 20 to 30-pound variety keeps well. With dark-orange, tasty flesh, it matures late.
Highly productive hybrid Frisco produces uniform, tan-colored butternut squash, and was developed by Hollar Seeds. Frisco’s neck is thick and long, and it weighs about 6 pounds. The sweet, orange flesh is high in dry matter. Frisco matures in about 90 days.
Geisha, a semibush, 7 to 8-pound kabocha squash, exemplifies the classic taste expected of this type. Developed by D. Palmer Seeds, this hybrid matures in about 85 days and tolerates zucchini yellow mosaic virus. Grey speckles on dark green color its shell, while silver-lined centers highlight its shallow furrows.
Heavenly Hubbard’s vigorous vines give high yields of 15-pound blue squash ready to harvest in about 105 days. Its first-rate orange flesh is sweet and finely textured. Hollar Seeds developed this hubbard variety that demonstrates hybrid uniformity.
Honey Bear captured a 2009 All-America Selections award. Bred by Dr. Brent Loy at the University of New Hampshire, this miniacorn squash withstands cool, moist environments while tolerating powdery mildew. Its compact bush produces dark green fruit weighing about 1 pound in approximately 100 days. The AAS judges noted its exceptional eating quality.
Royal Ace, an acorn squash developed by Harris Moran, has intermediate resistance to powdery mildew. A heavy yielder, it matures in the main season and demonstrates excellent plant vigor. This hybrid features a dark-green shell with firm flesh. Designated HMX 9736 in trials, it also features uniformity of shape.
RS 952 is a hybrid version of Dickinson. Although known for quality pumpkin pie processing, Dickinson is technically a butternut squash. Bred by Rupp Seeds, RS 952 matures two weeks earlier than Dickinson. Moreover, its tonnage per acre surpasses Dickinson. Weighing an average of 15 pounds, RS 952 measures high in Brix and dry matter.
D. Palmer Seed Co.’s Silver Moon shows both zucchini yellow mosaic virus and powdery mildew tolerances. Weighing 5 to 6 pounds, this oblate, pale-blue hybrid sports silvery white stripes and speckles, and dark-orange flesh. The vine habit is also uniform in shape and size, and produces fruit in 95 days.
Speckled Hound, another D. Palmer Seed Co. squash with ornamental and culinary uses, also matures in 95 days. It has an oblate shape with squared flat sides and shallow furrowing, light to medium-orange coloration with green to blue-green splotches. A hybrid, it features thick flesh with a high degree of dry matter.
The variegated orange and green colors give an ornamental flair to sweet, tasty Speckled Pup. This hybrid mini kabocha by D. Palmer Seed Co. produces fruit averaging 1.5 to 2 pounds on semibush plants. Tolerant of both zucchini yellow mosaic virus and powdery mildew, it matures in 85 days.
The author is a writer-researcher specializing in agriculture. She currently resides in central Pennsylvania.