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Cousa Squash: Zucchini's sweet cousin

cousa squash

My family comes from the Calabria region of Italy (the tip of the boot). We've experimented with growing dozens of varieties of squash and gourds throughout my 30 years of life; from pumpkins to zucchini, and all vines in between. But the cousa squash (pictured above) came about as an accident. Six years ago, a friend of the family had gone back to visit our native region and returned with various seeds for my family to sow. This particular bag of seeds was labeled 'zucca', which in Italian translates to all squash varieties. After roughly 30 days we were surprised to see a variety of squash known as the cousa. Typically used in Middle Eastern cuisine, this large, pale, and speckled green variety of summer squash is prized for its tender and sweeter flesh and skin.

All squash varieties do well in loamy soil and with full sun exposure. They are susceptible to both frost and heat damage, but can produce an incredible yield if you take proper care of them.

Planting & care

Start your cousa seeds indoors in spring in warm soil (ideally between 55º and 70º), but not too early in order to avoid pests and diseases common in the earlier start of the spring season. Once a few inches in height plant squash varieties (Cucurbita) about one inch deep and roughly 2 feet apart. They will vine and grow onto anything they can grab, so if you have a hill you can plant them on top and they will make their way down the hill as they mature. Or as another option, add a wooden/plastic trellis or lattice or plant near a fence for support!

The soil needs to remain moist at least 4-5 inches down so make sure to water regularly, especially as the summer takes hold. Fertilize during harvest for a boom in production and increase in size.

Harvesting and cooking tips

Generally speaking 50-60 days is your average time to maturity but can be ready to harvest very shortly after first flowering. We've stored freshly cut squash for up to two weeks in the fridge, far less than the winter varieties of squash which can last for months in a proper cellar or garage.

For frozen storage, wash, cut off ends, and cut into whatever shape you use most for your cooking preferences. Give a quick blanch (2-3 minutes max) and then pack and freeze.

Unlike zucchini, where one should avoid the baseball bat sized specimens for its increased blandness, the cousa's flavor only sweetens further with age (but not to an extreme–don't leave it on the vine until it looks like it's going to explode). We typically use cousa in our minestrone, and also as a wonderful substitute to eggplant or zucchini in parmigiana.

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