Old Mother Hubbard: The Tale of the Blue Hubbard Squash
Large and warty with a zombie-esque blue-gray hue, the blue Hubbard squash might just be the scariest fruit you encounter.
It’s a member of Curcubita maxima - one of at least four types of cultivated squash species. Brothers and sisters include the banana squash, buttercup squash, candy roaster squash, kabocha and turban squash.
The most popular origin story goes like this: The squash came to Marbehead, Massachusetts, in the holds of a ship from the West Indies, by a man named Captain Knott Martin.
The seeds made their way into the hands of James J. H. Gregory. Originally a green-colored squash, Gregory savvily bred the hubbard’s skin to a unique blue color - and introduce them to the American market in 1854 (and wrote about them in his 1867 book, Squashes: How to Grow Them). “Squash, in fact, paid so well that Gregory was able to donate a new library to the town of Marblehead and to establish the ‘Gregory Fund,- which provided every local family who gave birth to twins with a new carriage.”
The finer points of this tale are debated: One story says a woman named Elizabeth Hubbard (the Gregory’s wash woman or neighbor) was given the seeds by Captain Knott Martin and then shared them with Gregory. Another says Hubbard bred the squash herself from the seeds brought on Martin’s ship.
Yet another claims that a woman named Sarah Martin, sister of Captain Knott Martin, developed the squash with her sister Martha. Sarah was shy about approaching Mr. Gregory with the seeds, so she asked Elizabeth Hubbard to do so for her.
Because Hubbard was the first to promote the squash - claiming it was the best she ever tasted - Gregory named it after her.
It’s even the subject of a children’s rhyme, “Raising Hubbard Squash in Vermont”:
“If we could only spin a top
And make a wish and get a crop,
The things that I’m about to say
Would then be told another way;
For crops there be so hard to cinch
You couldn’t raise ‘em with a winch -
It’s all I want to do, by Gosh!
To raise a head of Hubbard Squash … ”
The hubbard’s thick skin and long shelf life (up to 6 months!) made it a natural choice for storage and long sea journeys, and its large size (up to 40 pounds!) make it an economical and tasty choice for restaurant and family meals to this day. Another variety - the baby blue Hubbard - is smaller and weighs in at around 6 pounds.
The insides are smooth and dense with the nutty-sweet taste. It’s great baked, roasted, steamed or pureed for breads, pies or pasta. Substitute it in any recipe calling for pumpkin, butternut squash or sweet potato.
If you own a heavy duty meat cleaver, you can try giving the squash a good whack, battle-axe style, to break it open … But (and here’s something we think you’ll get a kick out of) the easiest way to break through the thick exterior of your Hubbard is to chuck it on the ground - or as Rachel from Simply Seasonal puts it: “I actually go for more of a controlled drop – slamming it on the ground with a little help from gravity. It cracks the squash right open without having to go out to the shed for your saw. Plus, it’s good for stress relief.”
DO try this at home (just maybe not on your nice hardwood floors).