Food Worth Growing: ‘Pilar’ Winter Squash

Gayla Trail harvesting Pilar Winter Squash aka Zapallito Redondo de Tronco

Back in late July I told you about a two-for-one squash from Argentina called ‘Pilar’ aka ‘Zapallito Redondo de Tronco’ that can be harvested young as a zucchini, or left to ripen and enjoyed later in the year as a winter squash. Well, three months have passed and I have begun harvesting and eating the fruit that were left to ripen into much larger winter squashes.

Pilar Winter Squash aka Zapallito Redondo de Tronco

On first impression they are big — much larger than I anticipated. The plant was very prolific, again exceeding my expectations. It just grew and grew… and grew. For that reason I would not classify this as a particularly compact plant, although I suppose that you could see it that when when compared with the free roaming habit of most winter squash varieties. The plant started out compact, but by fall its arms had taken over the raised bed it was meant to share with another bushing squash and had made its way underneath a few tomatoes and out onto the main pathway. I tried to reign it in as much as possible as I was worried about powdery mildew. Still, it did well and outlasted many of the other squashes I grew this year. In fact, as I write this in late October most of the plant is still in the soil! It has continued to put out a few flowers here and there that we are savouring very late into the season. A hard frost is coming soon, so I suspect this week will be its last.

Pilar Winter Squash aka Zapallito Redondo de Tronco

As you can see the fruit is dark green on the outside with hints of orange and a very bright orange interior flesh. The shell is hard and inedible, with an inside that is soft and wet. I have baked a few in the oven and made the mistake of adding water to the pan, which is what I often do to keep hard squashes from drying out. Next time I will not add any water to the pan and will instead allow it to steam in its own liquid. This treatment may also help improve the taste, which I am sorry to report is on the bland side. The batches I have made so far have relied on a liberal addition of sage and thyme to give it some zing.

Despite its shortcoming this is still hands-down my favourite new squash and one that I will be growing again and again. It was bountiful to say the least, offering up possibly hundreds of edible flowers through summer and well into fall, as well as several tender zucchinis and approximately eight mature fruits. And to be fair, we’ve had an exceptionally wet and cool growing season from start to finish this year. For that reason I will be curious to see if this variety ripens with more flavour and less wetness in drier, hotter years.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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10 thoughts on “Food Worth Growing: ‘Pilar’ Winter Squash

  1. Those squashes look beautiful! They remind me of the pumpkins we love eating here in Australia, a variety called ‘Japanese’ (I believe they’re ‘Kabocha’ in North America?). We like to roast chunks – skin on – with a little olive oil and S+P in the oven. The skin is edible and has a lovely nutty flavour. I also tend to get the odd ‘volunteer’ plant growing out of my compost after we’ve had these pumpkins, so easy to grow!

  2. Nice looking squash. Excellent photog’. Thnx!

    I love the sculptural quality of squash, if nothing else they are beautiful as objects to admire. Worth growing for that reason alone. Art then soup! I always have a few grown or market squash sitting around this time of year.


  3. Squash, as well as pumpkins and all those sort of winter storage-types, will last longer if you don’t hold them by their stems. They can be very slightly damaged that way and let a tiny bit of bacteria/oxygen in, just enough to let them rot a month or two prematurely.

  4. I also grew a squash this year which was less that flavourful when cooked. In an effort to pump some flavour into it I used some Asian dried mushrooms (pre soaked), onion, thyme, and stock to make soup with it. Turned out great, even with watery squash.

  5. Gayla, did you have any issues with vine borers or squash bugs? If so, how did you combat them?! This year, I got a bumper crop of ronde de nice zucchini before the plant stems turned to mush, and I’m worried any future squash will suffer a similar fate so I’m already trying to figure out how to protect the plants next year. Any advice would be appreciated!

    • I didn’t. I’d suggest wrapping the stems in tinfoil at the base. I’ve done this when I wasn’t sure if there would be any and I couldn’t be there everyday to check.

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