Top five British squash and pumpkin producers
by Alessia Horwich | 24 October 2011 | 4 commentsTweet
Autumn is here, and brings with it a bumper harvest of brightly coloured squashes. In celebration, here's five of the best British squash producers.
This farm on the northern edge of the New Forest has been run by the Smales family for the last 40 years. It’s primarily a dairy farm, which gives the family a whole lot of rich manure to help grow their 30 acres of pumpkin and squash, as well as other veg. They grow four varieties of pumpkin, including Baby Bear and Mars. For squashes, there are six varieties on offer. "We have been growing pumpkin and squash for over 30 years and we never use chemicals as the fruit squash are too susceptible and delicate," says owner Michael Smales. "Essentially, we take a lot of care to grow the best quality produce."
Across 14 acres of land in the Stour Valley, Martin Mackey and his team grow certified organic vegetables, salad, herbs and soft fruit. "It's important for us that we farm as sustainably as we can," says Martin. Squash loves the sun, giving Ripple the advantage as Kent gets more sun than the rest of the UK. The farm grows about a dozen varieties. "The Hokkaido squash (aka buttercup and kabocha) is our favourite squash to eat with its dry, nutty, sweet flesh," says Martin, "and the Crown Prince squash is another good one - as well as being very tasty, it can store until April/May in a good year."
Since 1947 Charlton has been growing apples and other fruit on its land in Taunton, Somerset. About 15 years ago the owners were in search of another product for the farm shop. "We have always liked eating squash, but found it hard to find," says co-owner Sally Bail, "so pumpkins seemed the obvious crop to grow alongside the apples." Today the farm grows a wide range of squash including Butternut, Red Kabocha and Crown Price, as well as Gem Squash which is popular with South Africans. Though not an organic farm, Charlton believes in as little intervention as possible: "we spray only when absolutely necessary," says Sally, "and in most years, our squash needs nothing more than water."
One of the very first organic farms in the UK, Perry Court has been using biodynamic growing practices since 1953, raising crops of salad, herbs, vegetables and of course squash, alongside beef and milling its own flour. The Brockman family decided to start growing squash as they are low maintenance, very popular, and have great storage ability – "and of course, they are very tasty," says grower Paul Vesey-Wells. The varieties grown on the farm, near Canterbury in Kent, include Red Onion squash, Sweet Dumpling and Green Kabocha. "Biodynamic farming is a more holistic approach," says Paul; "only organic seeds are used, the soil is organic and there are no chemicals used whatsoever."
On the 12 acres at Elms Farm in Worcestershire, Charbal Akiki grows hundreds of different varieties of fruits and vegetables, all raised totally organically and biodynamically. In fact, the devotion to biodynamic methods is so stringent that Akiki has been awarded a Demeter certificate, ensuring the process from seed to packaging. Akiki started to grow squash due to customer demand for something different. Today, the farm has several varieties including Ushki Curi, Turks Turban, Paintball Pumpkin, Acorn and Spaghetti squash. "I love the simplicity of squash. We plant them and leave them to it. There’s no messing, they are totally natural," says Akiki. And leaving it to nature makes the end product all the more exciting. "The squashes are a delight – they really are the best of the British harvest."
Now you've got a squash, here's what to do with it: