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PHOTO: Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
Everyone loves summer squash. The classic zucchini and yellow crookneck, with their attractive larges blossoms spilling out from the sprawling bushes, define the summer growing season for a lot of backyard gardens. However, there are several major issues with these summer must-haves including the large space requirements. One way around this space issue is search out vining squash cultivars that can be trained on trellises, on cages or along fence lines.
Unfortunately, there are very few true summer squash that are vining in nature. One way around this is to look at winter squash and other unusual varieties whose young immature fruit are a suitable culinary alternative to your classic zucchini and yellow crooknecks. The following are two vining squash options that can be the space-saving vertical answer for your small garden plots.
1. Tatume Squash
Sometimes known as Calabacita, the Tatume is a traditional ingredient in many Southwestern or Mexican cuisines. Not a true summer squash, the oval Tatume fruits can either be harvested early at the size of a tennis ball or left to mature into a more traditional winter squash. The young fruits are green with a firm flesh and soft tender skin, and they have a slightly sweet flavor. If left on the vine the mature Tatume will gradually turn yellow and pumpkin-like and will need to be roasted before eating. Tatume is also drought-tolerant and nearly immune to the dreaded squash vine borer, which is a blessing for many gardeners in the South like myself!
2. Table Dainty Squash
The Table Dainty is best classified as an English Marrow, but it makes for a great summer squash substitute when picked early. This vining heirloom dates to the late 19th century and is a perfect option for gardens looking to forgo the classic bush type squashes in favor of a climbing vertical option. This vigorous vine is not as dainty as the name suggests, rather it is a prolific producer of small delicate fruits that are 5 to 6 inches long and green with stripes that range between from white to yellow. The young fruits are quite tasty and make a great zucchini clone. The plants are hardy and have pretty good resistance to both insects and many common squash diseases.