Squashes Galore

Squashes - Brian Halweil

On September 25th, LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton will conclude its season-long, living art exhibit celebrating squashes with SquashFest. At this cornucopia of cucurbits—the family of plants that includes cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins—guests will help harvest LongHouse’s own “squash court,” compete in gourd carving and squash baking contests, and enjoy cooking demonstrations by local chefs. Children will also display homegrown zucchini, butternuts, and pumpkins raised from seeds that LongHouse distributed in May. (For information, call 329-3568 or see longhouse.org.)

The exhibit was inspired by the writing and art of food preservationist Amy Goldman, who raises hundreds of rare vegetables at her garden in Rhinebeck, NY (see her storage barn at right), but who first fell in love with melons and squashes as a teenager in Oyster Bay. “We had an Italian gardener who taught me how to grow melons in the Italian manner,” she remembered, using melon boxes (meloniers) to magnify the heat.

Today, Ms. Goldman, author of The Compleat Squash and Melon’s for the Passionate Grower, works to preserve our vanishing vegetable heritage “in seeds, first of all, in words, in deeds, and in bronze.” (She recently began making exquisite casts of cucurbits. See rareforms.com.) And what about the one squash that bears a local name: the Long Island Cheese, a large, beige pumpkin that looks like a wheel of fromage? “It’s not one of my favorites,” admitted Ms. Goldman, who will offer advice on harvesting, storing, and cooking squash at the Fest. “It’s stunning, but it’s semi-domesticated. It needs more work. I love it only because it’s so beautiful, and it has a very, very long shelf life. By the end of fall, the Cheese stands alone.”