One Pretty Pumpkin, Warts and All

Galeux d'Eysines pumpkin The big, warty salmon-pink pumpkin surprised me when it appeared in my community garden plot this year. I couldn’t remember planting the seed. I must have, though, because rolling around my brain was the variety name—Galeux d’Eysines, or Scabby from Eysines. I found the fruit stunningly beautiful, and I was happy it was growing where so many people could admire it.

This Cucurbita maxima variety was developed in Eysines, a farming community near Bordeaux, in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. It apparently wasn’t introduced to the United States until 1996, when Amy Goldman found it at a potiron fair in Tranzault, a tiny town in the center of France (Amy loves squashes so much that she wrote a book about them and sculpts them besides).

Some Americans are now calling Galeux d’Eysines the peanut pumpkin, not only because peanut pumpkin is easier to pronounce but because the warts on this squash are, in their size, color, and ridges, reminiscent of dried peanut shells.

Although Galeux d’Eysines may be the world’s wartiest squash, many squashes are warty. I can’t tell you why. Gardeners like to say that the warts emerge from an excessive buildup of sugar in the flesh. But I can find no scientific verification of this notion, and, in fact, when I tasted the insides of a Galeux d’Eysines wart I didn’t taste any sweetness at all.

Now I remember where I got the seed I planted last spring. Three years ago I bought a Galeux d’Eysines squash at a market. Because seed catalogs raved about the flavor—“one of the tastiest squashes I have tried” (Baker Creek), “silky smooth, fiber-free” (Everwilde Farms)—I was disappointed to find mine watery and insipid. I wondered if perhaps I’d cut into it too early or too late, since some squashes improve with keeping and others deteriorate quickly. I saved a few seeds so I could sample another fruit or two later.

Galeux d'Eysines, cutThis year, my vine produced two fruits—the usual yield, according to the catalogs. The bigger fruit, pictured here, weighed more than 20 pounds. Its flesh was a beautiful bright orange, its seed cavity small, and its seeds rather few (and too big and tough to eat). I cut the squash in half, roasted one half, and gave the other half to a neighbor.

Again, I was disappointed: The flesh was watery, only mildly sweet, and somewhat stringy. It became silky-smooth only after I put it through the food mill.

Still, with the milled flesh I made a delicious curried squash soup with coconut milk. My neighbor was happy with her similar-looking soup. If you like puréed soup, this may be the squash for you.

But its use is limited. To make it into pie you have to drain off some of the water. If you want to stir-fry it, well, forget it.

The greatest virtue of the Galeux d’Eysines, I concluded, is its appearance. My bigger fruit made a lovely porch ornament all through October and November. If I had plenty of garden space, I would grow Galeux d’Eysines every year, just for the pleasure of looking at it. But for me it could never replace denser, sweeter squash varieties like butternut, red kuri, and Sweet Meat. With plenty of those fruits, come winter, I wouldn’t feel guilty about throwing Galeux d’Eysines to the pigs—if I had pigs. Thank goodness that at least I have neighbors.

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