Revisiting the question of growing dinner for your dinner: it needs to be easy to grow; prolific; easy to store; easy to feed out; and, ideally, it should be a possible people food as well. High on the list of plants that meet these requirements is the heritage squash tromboncino.
Tromboncino, also sometimes called vining zucchini, is one of the easiest-to-grow crops we know of. We start a few plants in the greenhouse, but mostly we direct sow after last frost. It vines like a pumpkin, climbs like bindweed, is resistant to cucumber wilt, withstands squash bug and squash vine borer damage, and produces copious large fruits — we selected one at random last year and counted over fifty squashes on that single vine. They are long- and thick-necked squashes with a small seed cavity, but large seeds (good roasted). Mature, many of the fruits will approach or exceed three feet in length, so the simple biomass produced by a single plant is very large. As human food, it serves as a nice summer squash when green, and, when mature, is a good winter squash, more savory than sweet, but very versatile. Basement stored, on our farm it keeps well into the next spring.
And, significantly, our pigs and poultry partake enthusiastically. Roughly cut up and fed raw, tromboncino is a significant part of our winter animal feed, with the added benefit that the seeds, as with other cucurbits, are reportedly anthelmintic (anti-parasitical). Let your food be your medicine, and let your animals’ foods be theirs, just about sums it up.
Another benefit of tromboncino is where it fits in the garden planning. As a climbing plant, it can be grown wherever we can provide it with an UP to go — like on the garden fences. It’s so happy to climb that you want to avoid putting it too close to your fruit trees, because it will clamber over them like kudzu. But if you have a bed to dedicate to it — a BIG bed, because it’s going to travel — tromboncino, like other squashes, gives you a chance to address your weed load with heavy mulching. That means that it’s a good crop to grow ahead of small-seeded annuals — it’ll make management of the successive crop easier.