Featured Variety: Zucchino Rampicante Squash

Zucchino rampicante, sometimes sold as trombetta or trombocino squash, is one of the most delicious squashes, this unique Italian heirloom is both a summer and winter squash. When fruits are young, they are tender, mild and sweet. If left to mature on the vine, they will get very large and store for months.

To clear up any misconceptions some people have about the difference between summer and winter squash: both are grown in the warm season. Most summer squash plants have been selected to be picked when fruits are tender and immature. Most of them are also shrubby rather than viney.

Both the foliage and fruit are attractive.

Winter squashes usually take a longer season, produce mature fruits that store for a long time (thus the name winter squash) and grow on vigorous vines that take up a lot of space. Neither summer nor winter squash grow in winter, unless you have a fairly frost-free location (a friend of mine told me recently she was growing winter squash right now!).

Hanging from an arbor.

This makes this variety somewhat of an anomaly, since it is regarded as good as both summer and winter squash. The flavor and texture is also different than most summer squashes, being more firm, and slightly nutty. Eventually the crookneck-like fruits can reach 4 feet long, and most of the seeds will develop on the bulbous side of the fruit. When tender and “summery” the fruits are light green with variegation. When mature, they turn beige.

My first encounter with this fruit was at the community garden I belong to a few years ago. The fruits are comical and strange. I have heard stories about people using them in arbors and can only imagine how amazing those fruits look hanging. I have only seen them growing on the ground, though taking over quite vigorously.

Though sometimes sold as a “seedless” variety, this only refers to the young fruits, which haven’t yet formed seed. They will, eventually, produce seed which are suitable for planting the next year, being an open-pollinated plant. Open-pollinated varieties are the traditional varieties which have been grown and selected for their desirable traits for millennia. They come true to seed. Plant seed after all threat of frost is over in enriched garden soil and full sun. Seeds are available at Renee’s Garden, sold as trombetta squash, or at one of my new favorite seed sources, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, sold as Zucchino Rampicante. Franchi Sementi has a variety they call Tromba of Albenga which is most likely this variety or at least something very close.

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