For the past eight decades, the Sherman family has been cherishing a unique treasure: the sugar Hubbard squash, which fifth generation Sherman Alix Roos assures is “the best squash in the world.”
The Scenic Isle Farm, a 130-something-year-old business nestled in Ebey’s Prairie on Central Whidbey, is the main — if not the only — producer of this heirloom variety of squash, which is sold all over the Puget Sound region and can be found in grocery stores, restaurants, schools, food banks and hospitals, Roos said. Currently, the squash is being cut and prepared to reach stores by the first week of December.
“It’s kind of a special treat for our locals to be able to eat squash that’s there and in all sorts of menu items up and down the island and beyond,” said Roos, who took over the former Sherman’s Pioneer Farm with her husband Brandon Roos and sister Corrie Chamberlin after her uncle and aunt, Dale and Liz Sherman, retired in 2021.
The “primordial” version of sugar Hubbard squash was first introduced by the Gill Bros. Seed Co. in Portland, Oregon, and born by combining sweet meat squash and blue Hubbard squash seeds. Later, Edwin Sherman — Roos’ grandfather — and Washington State University brought it to perfection and created a variety of squash that thrives in Whidbey’s cool, maritime climate.
Roos described the squash as very sweet and soft, blue and gray on the outside and gold on the inside. It can grow to weigh up to 44 pounds and feed a good number of people, and it can be stored for as long as five months. The Scenic Isle Farm team store the squash in the barn by alternating a layer of squash with a layer of wheat straw from October to March, and anyone who purchases a whole squash can leave it on their porch to ripen for two to three months — as long as it doesn’t freeze.
The sugar Hubbard is also versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes, like soups, risottos, lasagnas, pastas, breads, pies and even ice cream. It can also make for a great low-effort meal: Roos recommended baking it for 50 minutes until it caramelizes, then adding butter, salt and pepper. The squash also adds a healthy kick to any recipe as it’s rich in nutrients like beta-carotene, potassium, iron, zinc, protein, vitamin C, and many B-vitamins.
For its unique taste, health benefits and rarity (which makes it an endangered variety) the sugar Hubbard sails aboard the Ark of Taste, a catalog of delectable foods at risk, which the Scenic Isle Farm is honored to be a part of.
Lately, Roos’ favorite recipe has been the sugar Hubbard coconut curry soup, which she shared with the Whidbey News-Times.
· 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
· 3 cups of chopped yellow onion
· 3 cloves of minced garlic
· 2 1/2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger
· 1 teaspoon of dry coriander
· 1 teaspoon of turmeric
· 1 teaspoon of Madras curry powder
· 1 teaspoon of cumin
· 2 pounds of peeled and cubed sugar Hubbard squash (1/2” cubes, about 6 cups)
· 2 400mL cans coconut milk
· 1-2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
· salt and pepper
· cilantro for garnish (optional)
Steam the Hubbard squash cubes until soft and save the water for broth.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low and add the onions. Cook until the onions are soft and transparent for three to four minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, curry powder and cumin. Add the squash and three cups of water from steaming, turn the heat to medium, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut milk.
Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup until it is smooth. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with extra coconut milk and fresh cilantro if desired. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to four days.