Origin: Bethlehem, Palestine
Improvement status: Landrace
Seeds per packet: ~16
Germination tested 12/2021: 99%
Life cycle: Annual
EFN INTRODUCTION. NEW FOR 2022. This butternut-type squash traces back to squash sold at an outdoor market in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. It came to our attention thanks to our dear friend and colleague Vivien Sansour of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, who also comes from Bethlehem. She's not sure of the original roots of this squash, besides Central America, via indigenous peoples of Eastern North America, via Charles Leggett of Stow, Massachusetts, who gave it the name "butternut", and Robert Young of the Massachusetts College of Agriculture's Waltham Agricultural Experiment Station who slapped the name 'Waltham' on it and likely did some selection additional work in the late 1930s or early 1940s when it was released. After that, butternuts started making their way around the world (they're said to be quite popular in Australia these days), and at some point they became popular in the Middle East and in various parts of the Mediterranean world.
Vivien suspects it may be a local landrace — many decades is plenty of time for a landrace to develop — and our time growing it has led us to agree. At the same time, we recognize that due to the economic and political power structures governing life in the West Bank, it's entirely possible that the squash being sold in that Palestinian market were grown in Israel, even perhaps with hybrid seed from the US, Holland, Italy, or elsewhere. But it's also possible the squash came from butternut-type squash grown by local farmers for decades. Vivien reports that this kind of squash is popular among Palestinians. This variety has now been grown here in the US for some years.
From our experience growing it a few times, whatever its origin, it seems likely it's adapted for a short-season desert location: it matures fruit quickly for the species, generally makes one fruit per plant, succeeded well with no irrigation, and responded poorly to an unexpected flooding event. The fruit range from 1 to 5 lbs or so, with sweet orange flesh. Fruit shape also varies, mainly in width, with most of them having the basic butternut shape, but sometimes with a less pronounced bulbous end. Skin is pale — perhaps an adaptation to the hot summer sun — and thin, but the fruit seems to keep well anyway.
These seeds were grown for us by our friend Olivia Gamber in Philadelphia. 50% of the proceeds of these seeds will be donated to the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library.