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Sugar Hubbard Squash

“Dale and I joined Slow Food after [a friend] entered our Sugar Hubbard Squash into the Ark of Taste. Dales’ family had been growing squash since the early 1900s. This variety has been since the 1940s, when after WWII, Edwin Sherman went to Washington State University, and together they developed the Sugar Hubbard. This variety grows very well in our [Pacific Northwest] climate of  moderate weather. Our growing season begins with planting in May, harvest in September or October and storage through April. We sell squash through out processing facility. This product can withstand heat, but it will need to be watered and covered because of the heat.” — Liz Sherman, Sherman’sPioneer Farm, Coupeville, WA

Thank you to Dale and Liz of Sherman’s Pioneer Farm, Coupeville, Washington for providing hard-to-find Sugar Hubbard squash seeds!

The Sugar Hubbard Squash was developed in the late 1940s as a cross between the Blue Hubbard and the Sweet Meat heirloom varieties. The Blue Hubbard squash can be traced back to Captain Knott Martin’s ship while docked in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in 1854. The Sweet Meat squash traces its origins to the Pacific Northwest region of the US. 

The hybrid Sugar Hubbard seed was first introduced by the Gill Bros. Seed Co. of Portland, Oregon, in the late 1940s. The variety was picked up and further developed by a few Whidbey Island farmers, including Edwin Sherman, and Washington State University. Together, they brought the squash to the commercial market and was a success for a time. Currently, only one farm continues to grow a commercial Sugar Hubbard crop — Sherman’s Pioneer Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington state’s Puget Sound, owned and operated by Edwin Sherman’s son, Dale and his wife, Liz. 

The Sugar Hubbard, Blue Hubbard and Sweet Meat are all of the species cucurbita maxima and, true to the maxima in their name, grow quite large. An average healthy Sugar Hubbard can grow up to 20 pounds, and its parent the Blue Hubbard grows even larger. The Sugar Hubbard squash is large and nutritious but easier to handle than the massive Blue Hubbard and can keep for six months after it is harvested. Squash finds its roots of origin in South and Central America, but has long been cultivated by Indigenous people in North Americans. Indigenous people in what is now the United States developed the ‘Three Sisters’ method of planting corn, beans, and squash together — each one benefiting the others.The large leaves of the squash defends the surrounding soil against unwanted plant competitors while with corn grows tall above the ground and the beans climb the corn stalks as well as fix nitrogen to fertilize the soil for the other plants. 

The Sugar Hubbard squash is a large, torpedo-shaped winter squash with blue-gray skin and bright gold flesh. It is naturally sweet and delicious when cooked or mashed, chunked and pan-fried, or served up roasted and carmel-tinged. This variety can be added to everything from soups to bread to ice cream, and makes an excellent pie. It is very rich in nutrients, including beta-carotene, potassium, iron, zinc, protein, vitamin C, and many B-vitamins. Roasted squash seeds also make a tasty snack. 

Sowing and Growing

Best practices and timing for planting any variety will depend on your growing zone and your frost dates. Put your zip code into the Farmer’s Almanac Planting Calendar to see expected frost dates for your where you live and helpful notes about planting indoors/outdoors, and when to do which one!

These are planting instructions for Blue Hubbard Squash from Johnny’s Seeds:

Decorative farmstand favorite. A beloved heirloom with a hard, bumpy, blue-green shell. A fall tradition at New England roadside stands. Medium-dry, medium-sweet yellow flesh. Avg. weight: 12–15 lb., with some larger. Avg. yield: 1 or sometimes 2 fruits/plant. USDA Certified Organic. Avg. 2,100 seeds/lb. Packet: 30 seeds. 

CULTURE: Fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0–6.8 is best. Plastic mulch and fabric row covers (AG-19 grade) can aide plant establishment and exclude insect pests during the seedling stage. Row covers should be removed when plants begin to flower. Poor fruit development may indicate insufficient pollination. 

TRANSPLANTING: Sow 2–3 seeds per 2″ container or plug flat about 3 weeks prior to transplanting. Thin to 1 plant/container or cell with scissors. Harden plants 4–7 days prior to transplanting. After danger of frost has passed, transplant out according to the spacing recommendations for each variety. Handle seedlings carefully; minimal root disturbance is best.

DIRECT SEEDING: Sow 2 seeds at the appropriate spacing interval for the variety’s vine length, 1/2–1″ deep. Thin to 1 plant per spacing interval after seedlings are established.

PLANT SPACING: Bush to short-vine habits generally require 6′ between-row spacing, while long-vine habits require 12′ between-row spacing. In-row spacing depends on fruit size and is generally: small, 18–24″; medium, 24–36″; large, 36–48″.

DISEASES: Common cucurbit diseases include powdery mildew, downy mildew, bacterial wilt, and phytophthora. Avoid problems with adequate soil drainage, good air flow, insect pest control, and crop rotation. If necessary, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service agent for specific control options.

INSECT PESTS: Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and vine borers are all common pests for cucurbits. Protect young plants with floating row cover. Squash bug eggs found on the undersides of leaves may be crushed by hand. For vine borers, cut out of vines and hill soil over the wound. Keep field borders mowed and remove plant refuse in the fall; spring plow to bury pupae. Pyrethrin sprays may offer some control.

HARVEST: Fruits are typically ready about 50–55 days after fruit set, and should be harvested before any hard frosts. Cut fruits from vines and handle carefully. Sun cure by exposing fruits for 5–7 days or cure indoors by keeping squash at 80–85°F/27–29°C with good air ventilation.

STORAGE: Store at 50–60°F/10–15°C, 50–70% relative humidity and good ventilation. Repeated exposure to temperatures below 50°F/10°C may cause chilling damage. Hubbards are better after a few weeks in storage and will keep up to 6 months. Red Kuri is the exception in that it is delicious right out of the field, but will only last a maximum of 3 months.

DAYS TO MATURITY: From direct seeding; subtract about 14 days if transplanting. 

AVG. DIRECT SEEDING RATES: (at 2 seeds/ft., rows 6′ apart) 1 oz./50′, 1 lb./850′, 8½ lb./acre.

PACKET: 30 seeds.

Days To Maturity 100 Days

Life Cycle: Annual

Hybrid Status: Open Pollinated