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Revisiting Vining Squash

Little Gem: 

Little Gem is a vining squash from South Africa.  Don't confuse the name with the new little C. maxima of the same name;  this is a C. pepo.  It's vines sprawl across the ground producing a vigorous mass of leaves.  Look close for the tiny green ball shaped gems.  They produce in large numbers especially when you keep picking them young to use as a kind of eight-ball squash.  They will produce squash through the summer and into the fall.  In fall the fruit develop hard shells and you could use Little Gem as a baking squash although it is not a sweet squash like today's acorn squash tend to be.  It does store well and maintains it's dark solid green color.  You can go online to sites maintained by those who have grown up eating the gem squash and who share the varied ways that they remember them being prepared;  mostly baked with breadcrumbs, garlic, grated cheese and olive oil or in other ways similar to the way the British prepare their marrow squash.

I have to devote some time next summer to produce a new seed crop of the Gem since it appears to be one of those varieties that are becoming difficult to find in commerce.  Although you could use zucchini or acorn squash in place of the squash (it is used both as a tender summer squash as well as a winter squash or marrow), the Little Gem squash are especially adapted to adversity.  Vining squash seem more vigorous, more resilient to disease, drought and insects.
Little gem was crossed with two different round yellow summer squash to produce an interesting assortment of squash that look more like gourds than edible squash when mature and ready for harvesting seed.  When immature and tender they are quite good;  the plants are always quite vigorous and can be bush to sprawling vine in habit.  The crosses are very productive and free of pests.


Tatume has a growing fan club because of it's resilience.  There are some folks who have a difficult time growing summer squash.  A common concern are diseases and insect pests.  I received seed of Tatume from the Porter Seed Company in Poole, Texas.  At the time, it was one of the last of those small family owned regional seed companies that had a number of unique varieties adapted to their growing area.  The "Porter" tomatoes remain a legacy to the dedication of the founder and his family to develop good regional varieties.   Tatume had developed a following in the southwest but it's origin is unclear.  For a while Tatume was available commercially by a wholesaler apparently as a summer squash for the Mexican market. More of a pumpkin than a squash;  it's preparation is always in the green stage before it matures. 

The vines ramble on and on producing little light green pumpkins so quickly that it is difficult keeping up with the harvest.  Before you know it, there are big thin skinned orange pumpkins showing up in the patch.  Like other vining squash, these will establish roots at their nodes and therefore keep exploiting new sources of water and nutrients as they sprawl across the garden.

Tatume when mature is a pumpkin; not quite like your Jack-O-Lantern, not very orange, not very ribbed, not very hard shelled and not very round.  It is productive and disease resistant though and that characteristic as well as being easy to carve could make it of use to pumpkin breeders. The fruit stays in good condition for a very long time.  I would say the ripe fruit could be used as holiday luminaria. Dig out the seed and put in one of those short candles that are used by caterers to keep a hot dish warm.  Best, it is a very nice summer squash when you catch it in the green stage.

We have F1, F2 and F3 Tatume crosses:  Tatume x Black Zucchini,  Tatume x White Zucchini,  Tatume x Cocozelle and others.  The first generation didn't sprawl and produced surprisingly good looking zucchini.  Subsequent generations which have been allowed to cross as a mass have become diverse and produce fruit that can be long or short, sleek or bloated.  Think, anything between the two extremes of the parents.
Here you can see the immature Tatume Hybrids and the mature seed crop of third generation Tatume Crosses.

Last Modified:  Nov, 2009