As a garden writer and a member of the horticultural industry, I receive free samples of new varieties all the time. Mostly the sample boxes contain flowers, perennials or small shrubs. Those are all right, I guess. But I do love when the box of new vegetable varieties arrives from the folks at Burpee.
Out of the nine new varieties in the box, the first to “cross the finish line” and present me with some produce is a squash called ‘Cupcake’. The above photo looks like unripe pumpkins growing closely along the main stem, doesn’t it? But no, these are type of summer squash. These have a soft, dark-green skin like a zucchini but the shape of a large patty pan squash. The ribs in the squash just fool you into thinking it’s a pumpkin.
Like a zucchini Cupcake produces its fruits along a main stem that comes from the middle of the plant. As you can see in the photo, as it first starts producing, this stem is erect, effectively stacking squash upon squash. As the plant grows it’ll be interesting to see if the plant keeps its upright nature or if it eventually grows along the ground. Personally, I like them upright.
The squash should be harvested when they are about 2 inches tall and about 5 inches in diameter. The larger ones pictured in the photo are a bit bigger than that. And while Cupcake is a prolific producer of fruits, they do not grow as quickly as zucchini. Meaning, instead of going from too small to too large in 24 hours, you may have 48 hours or more.
Back to the topic of Cupcake being prolific: At the time of my first harvest of these squash, I came home with six of them, having been away for several days. I gave several away. The next day one of the recipients sent me a photo of her dinner—she had hollowed out the squash, stuffed it with a beef mixture of some sort and topped it with cheese. Looked delicious!
Unlike a zucchini, the interior of Cupcake really does need to have its seeds removed like a winter squash. The seeds are surprisingly big and a bit harder than you’d like, but luckily the seeds are concentrated in the middle of the squash and are easily scooped out. You could harvest Cupcake at a smaller size (bypassing the need to scoop out the seeds) and then grill or roast. My mother plans to shred them and use in place of zucchini in her quick bread recipes. And I’ve chopped it into fine pieces and used in one of my favorite lentil-bulgur salads. Depending on how many I end up with during the season, I may even pickles slices of it.
With a squash as prolific and tasty as this, who needs zucchini? (But of course, I did plant one of those, too!)