Origin: Likely from Indigenous peoples of New Mexico
Improvement status: Landrace
Seeds per packet: ~18
Germination tested 11/2021: 97%
We’re excited to be offering this beautifully diverse landrace squash for the first time, brought to us by our good friend, plant breeder and seed saver Chris Homanics of Head, Hands, Heart Nursery and Seed. Here’s what Chris has to say about this special population:
"Sometimes you happen on something so good you wonder “how could this have almost slipped into extinction?” One such variety is ‘Pueblo Highlands Landrace’. A true landrace, you can expect from this squash a cornucopia of shapes — from warty hubbards with ribbing and colorful stripes to fat pink bananas, egg-shaped fruit to round blues with pinkish hues, and much more. However, while diverse in shape, the flesh is consistently high quality and the flavor is such that it is the most amazing squash to ever touch my lips. The dark orange-red flesh is a rich sweet custard, smooth and never stringy. The slightly puffy seeds roast up nicely too, making a delicious snack. A true keeper squash that will easily store for many months, often well into the spring.
There is some significant haziness surrounding the origin of ‘Pueblo Highlands Landrace’. Originally from the highlands of New Mexico which are known for blistering hot days and frigid cold nights with even occasional summer frosts. True to form, this squash has some frost resistance in the foliage (about as far as squashes go) and is resistant to black rot. Since first growing this out in 2013, this has become a staple for me and is my favorite winter squash.
The part of this landrace’s story which is known to me begins about 10 years before I got it, when — according to the story I was told — a construction worker was renovating an old long-abandoned house that had stood empty for some 30 years. The last inhabitant was said to be a Native American man with no immediate family. Inside the house, a series of glass mason jars were found in a pantry area underneath the stairs, containing corn, bean, and squash seeds. The worker kept the jars of seeds for a few years as a decoration on his mantle until someone suggested that they might still be viable. While nothing germinated from the other jars, the squash seeds did germinate and from them a patch of diverse fruits were grown out. I received some of these seeds from a friend in southern Oregon. To my knowledge, this squash has not been maintained by anyone else and is otherwise lost."
We have no way of verifying the truth of this story, but based on similarities to other squash from the area, it seems likely this landrace has roots with one or more of the indigenous Pueblo peoples in the region (indeed, we've recently been informed that this landrace bears a strong resemblance to the 'Taos Pueblo' squash, which was recently rematriated to the Taos Pueblo people thanks to the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network). The land known as New Mexico is also home to Dine (or Navajo) and Apache peoples, so this squash may have roots with them as well. Like all Cucurbita maxima squash, the ultimate origin of this squash is in South America, where the species was domesticated some four thousand ago by indigenous peoples in what is now known as Argentina.
We will happily share seeds of this squash with any indigenous people from the region who are interested in returning it to its homeland.
GROWING TIPS: Chris recommends growing squash with 5 feet spacing between plants. Direct seed or transplant.