The White Cushaw Squash That Grew out of My Compost

White cushaw squash flower

In a recent story, I wrote about my attempt at compost gardening. At the time, my results were good but not quite as good as I wanted. As I mentioned then, I started this garden from seed in May and resolved not to use chemicals (synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, etc.) of any kind. In the five months since then, I’ve faithfully kept that resolution. As a result my garden is entirely organic but a little late to reach maturity.

White cushaw squash bud

First Flowers

Fortunately things have changed since then. With temperatures remaining solidly in the 70º-90º F range — despite the fact that it’s supposed to be autumn — my squash plants (Cucurbita mixta) have been positively thriving. They’ve even gone so far as to take over nearly a third of my backyard, where most of the grass has withered due to the drought we’re having in North Carolina.

So, with the additional room to spread out and daily watering from me, the white cushaw plants are now producing copious amounts of flowers. These flowers are two inches across and chalk white, with deeply ridged vasculature, ruffled edges, and tiny hairs covering every petal.

White cushaw squash flower in garden

They’re also notable for blooming both at night as well as in the morning. (For the record, it’s downright surreal to go outside at midnight under a full moon and see a backyard full of chalk white blossoms, wide open and basking in the moonlight.) In the afternoon, however, they shut up like a clam.

Then the white cushaws started to produce immature fruits, no more than an inch long to start, which I only saw in passing at first. And because most of them eventually withered, I began to think all of them would.

Unripe white cushaw squash

But there were a few that clung to life.

Finally, around the beginning of September, I went out to water my plants in the evening and happened to notice something large, white, and bulbous sitting near the base of the mound where my compost garden is located. Of course I was cautiously optimistic, but I didn’t want to get excited until I got a closer look.

Mature Fruits

When I did, I nearly fell over.

From the first little immature fruits — most of which withered and came to nothing — there now emerged a gigantic whale of a squash that easily weighed six pounds. Considering how quickly this cushaw squash matured after so many others had withered and died, it was easy to be awestruck.

Ripe white cushaw squash in garden

Now I have three of these white cushaw whales at roughly the same stage of growth, fully mature and awaiting my dinner table. I haven’t removed any of them from the vine yet, because I’m giving them the chance to develop as much flavor and character as possible.

Culinary & Medicinal Uses

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that white cushaws are in fact exceedingly edible. Their flavor is mild but sweet, with yellow-orange flesh that allows them to easily replace pumpkin in any recipe calling for it. (Pumpkins and squashes are from the same genus, Cucurbita, so this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.)

Beyond that, the seeds of the white cushaw squash are large and tasty and can be eaten either raw or cooked. Once again, the taste is very similar to that of pumpkin. Also similar to pumpkin is the fact that white cushaw seeds can be pulverized into a powder, mixed in water, and used as a vermifuge (an herb that gets rid of worms).

On that tasty note, I should add that I may try to make a pumpkin pudding using white cushaws (no pumpkin pie for me due to paleo dietary restrictions) around Thanksgiving. This should be entirely feasible since white cushaws will usually last for two or three months as long as they’re stored in a cool, dark place. And if there’s sufficient interest, I may write another story about that culinary experiment.

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9 thoughts on “The White Cushaw Squash That Grew out of My Compost

  1. Would you be willing to share the pudding recipe? Thanks for stopping by my blog. I will be following yours because you seem to have similar interests. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Because our big compost piles collect material from big cafeteria kitchens, they get all sorts of vegetable parts that grow wild after dumped. We primarily find potatoes, onions, carots, and got quite a bit of tomatoes this year. We even had a pineapple for a while.


    1. I thought ours would be great for the wildlife, but they just ignored them. I took some of them to others at work. No one seemed to mind that they grew from a pile of kitchen trash and horse poo.


  3. I will have to check in frequently for inspiration. My compost box garden is in a corner of the yard that is not getting as much of my attention as it should. A neighbor’s morning glory is invading that corner so now is feeding off the compost. At least the gophers have not invaded it yet….


  4. As a kid, my sister and I would plant pumpkin seeds each year trying to outdo each other by seeing who could grow the largest pumpkin. The key to getting a larger pumpkin -pinching out blooms, leaving three or four to develop. It was often possible to grow massive Great Pumpkins. It was a lot of fun and now all these years later, I cannot recall how many times either of managed to win, but we did grow some HUGE pumpkins that were the envy of all our friends! 🙂
    Enjoy the cushaws!


  5. I enjoyed this immensely. I’ve been scarce in comments but I have a whole log of your posts piled up for when I can just wallow on blogs for a while.

    I had a stealth watermelon happen in my garden (which I don’t tend — there’s been a couple sharecropping there since the 90s) and it was such a discovery to stumble on it. All organic, too.


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