22 October 2013

Winter squashes

When I lived in France in the 1970s and '80s, nobody sold or cooked winter squash. (A winter squash is called « une courge » in French, and calling somebody a courge is like calling sombody a dummy.) I don't remember ever seeing butternut or acorn squashes in the markets or supermarkets. It was the same with pumpkins. Back then, people in Paris didn't believe in mixing sweet and salty foods on the same plate.

This is a buttercup squash — une courge buttercup — from our 2013 garden.

It turns out that was an urban view of the world. Out here in the country, people definitely ate them. So much so, it seems, some people viewed them as they viewed rutabagas: they were feed for animals that people had been forced to eat during hard times in the 1930s and '40s. They were not esteemed or valued. Our neighbors across the road, in their 80s now, find pumpkin and winter squash just repulsive.

In 2005 we grew a lot of these big sucrine du Berry squashes.

However, early on in Saint-Aignan, ten years ago, a woman we had met in the village gave us some seeds from a winter squash called a « sucrine du Berry » — sucrine obviously refers to sugar, and the Berry is the old province just to the south and east of Saint-Aignan, centered on the city of Bourges. We grew them and they were to us a kind of butternut squash, but bigger, and just as delicious.

A sucrine du Berry squash sliced open — all the seeds are in the bulbous bottom.

We've also grown pumpkins of two or three different kinds — potirons, citrouilles, potimarrons — with great success. The only time I had ever eaten pumpkin in France before we moved to Saint-Aignan in 2003 (and I lived in France for 7 or 8 years before coming to live here) was once in the late '70s on a trip out into the country.

The buttercup resembles an acorn squash but has this blue-colored bump on the blossom end.

I don't remember where it was, but I'll never forget that pumpkin soup. It was sliced onions and thin slices of orange pumpkin cooked in milk and broth with herbs. The pumpkin slices were just beginning to fall apart in the soup, and it was delicious. I'll have to make that soon. Not to mention pureed squash soups and "pumpkin" breads (which are really cakes). I've already made a Moroccan-style tajine with buttercup squash...


  1. I love butternut squash, especially in curry butternut squash soup. Last week at Safeway I discovered butternut squash already cut up (Mann's brand). Life made easy! I used some of it in some orange ginger carrot soup.

    That pumpkin soup sounds really good!


  2. I've read that the sweet/savoury swede (rutabaga) / celery combo I made the other day is very traditional, but I'd never come across it before. The root veg can be turnip or swede, the celery can be celeriac, celery or lovage.

  3. Now I feel like making pumpkin soup for lunch today.
    That is quite a wide variety of pumpkins/squash from your garden...and enough to keep you going through the winter too.

  4. Ken...
    you wrote:
    "some people viewed them as they viewed rutabagas: they were feed for animals that people had been forced to eat..."
    Simon still does!!!

    I like the sound of that pumpkin soup, too!
    Please make sure that you blog the recipe, tareversuch!
    I also like the sound of Mary's Orange, Ginger, Carrot [and butternut] Soup!!

    Thinking tajine... Pauline puts Ras al Hanout in our Pumpkin and Tomato soup...
    just the right source of spice for a winter soup...

  5. Ken, how big is that buttercup? It looks huge from the closeup perspective!

    Your mention of pumpkin bread being un cake reminds me to tell you that one of my students is doing a version of Pounti for her cuisine presentation this week. Another is doing Tartiflette, again. The last student who did Tartiflette used Meunster for the cheese, and it was very good.

  6. Hi Judy, what is the age bracket of your students?

  7. Judy, I just weighed that buttercup squash and it came in at 1,9 kg -- right at four pounds. Not huge, but a good size.

  8. chm, the students in the class I was referring to are juniors and seniors in high school, so they are between 16 and 18 (French 4). They've been learning lots of verbs and expressions related to cooking, so that they can now read most recipes. For their presentation, they are presenting the steps of a recipe (with photos) in passé composé, as if they had made the recipe the night before.

  9. Justement, je viens de me faire une soupe/purée avec un potimarron, un pâtisson, quelques carottes, des pommes de terre, du gruyère et des petit morceaux de truffes de Bourgognes fraichement récoltées dans la forêt près de chez moi :-).


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?