The Idiot Gardener

WARNING: This site contains information on gardening, brewing, curing meat,

building shit and hunting, all done in a piss-poor manner. It is not suitable for the

feeble-minded, the weak and lame, those of a nervous disposition, vegans and

vegetarians (and those other ones that only eat fish and the occasional bacon

sandwich - I think they're called 'hypocrites'), those who practice any

manner of folk singing or dancing, people named Colin or fans of Barry Gibb.

Vasco Mallorca Squash

If you’ve ever meandered around the streets of Bilbao, dipping in and out of the local grocery shops and food markets, you will not have failed to notice one local foodstuff which keeps putting in an appearance. The Vasco Mallorca squash looks – at first glance – like a bloody massive marrow. Think marrow, then think Barry White marrow; well, it’s bigger than that. Often what makes these impressive squash stand out is that they’ll be cut. The things are so big that one family would never be able to work their way through it before it expired, so people buy ‘slices’ of them.

Many of you, on seeing the word ‘Mallorca’, may be under the impression that this squash hails from the Balearic Islands, but it doesn’t. Mallorca is the type; the clue to its origin is the Vasco part of its name as it comes from the Basque region of Spain. Got that? Right; let’s move on.

Some will think that the Basque region in Spain is far more temperate than the UK. They’ve obviously not stood on the riverbank, waiting for a tram in the snow, have they? It can be warm, balmy and sunny. It can also be ‘freeze your bollocks off’ cold. Typically it hovers between the two.

Having seen the squash in a range of establishments in Bilbao, they’d intrigued me. They intrigued me so much that I went into a bar and drank some beer. At one point the Other Half nipped out, and on returning informed me that there was a ‘Seed Shop’ next door. A what? My beer-soaked brain struggled with the words.

Seed shop? A seedy shop? Did she mean a sex shop? Or a knocking shop? I’d seen the place; it was dark and small with dusty windows. I hadn’t really taken any notice of it, but now I thought it was filled with lithe buxom hookers, I had a sudden interest in checking it out.

It turned out to be a seed shop. Yes, a shop that sold seeds. It wasn’t a garden centre, and it wasn’t a gardening shop. It was a seed shop. Choking back my disappointment I ventured inside. Much of what was on offer was standard seeds: carrots, cabbages, tomatoes, onions, etc.. However, when I got to squash seeds, I saw it.

Will the Vasco Mallorca grow in England? Yes, it will. Does it need any special treatment? No. I planted mine in pots, germinated it in a cold greenhouse, and once the frosts were passed it went out into the field with nothing more than a spade of horse shit. I watered it well once a week until it was established, and then I ignored it.

The largest fruit it produced weighed in at a mere 20 kilos! The skin is softish, green and marrow-like. It slices easily, and the inside is bright orange and looks more like a pumpkin than a marrow. The flesh is somewhere between a marrow and a squash. The texture has that slight crunch of a marrow, and if overcooked it will go a bit limp. It tastes nutty and sweet but with a sharper background hit. It goes well with pork, but what doesn’t?

Is there a downside? Well, I’ve yet to find seeds anywhere on line, so if you want to try it you’ll have to go to Bilbao and find the seed shop (or be really nice to me and see if I’ll send you a few). The other thing is that they don’t store as well as winter squash. They develop mold at the stem end, so you’ll have to eat them within a few months of picking.

The upside? They look good, they make good soup, and they’re a change. Imagine a firmer tastier marrow, and you’re getting close. If you like marrow (and some people do, really, but then again some people like the Bee Gees) then you’ll do a little bit of wee for Vasco Mallorca!

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