Tatume’ – The wonder squash with many names

Some of the best things in the world happen by accident;  Post it Notes, potato chips, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and my discovery of Tatume’ squash.   While three of these accidental discoveries yielded vast quantities of money for their inventors, my discovery yields pounds and pounds of a fresh, flavorful, and versatile squash. 

Between work, grad school and the remodel of my house, my garden has not received the time and attention it normally gets.  Since it was a little late in the spring when I built my potager, I decided to speed things up a bit by purchasing established vegetable plants for my garden.  I bought my plants from the left over’s of the Texas A&M Horticulture Club’s Annual Plant Sale.  I bought several varieties of tomatoes, egg plant, watermelon, and fennel.  When I went looking for squash though, there were only two types left; white summer squash (we call it UFO squash in our house) and a variety that I had never heard of called Tatume’.  I grabbed the last summer squash and two of the Tatume’.

Tatume' vines and flowers in my potager

I soon realized that Tatume’ was no normal squash.  In a little over a week it has sent out vines that were over six feet long!  Everywhere a node lay against the ground, it rooted and sent out more shoots.  In two weeks time, half of my garden was over run by these two aggressive plants.  I was afraid it would cover the entire garden but I was comforted by how lovely it was.  The vines were covered with beautiful big yellow flowers.  Once it flowered, the growth rate decreased.  I decided to do some research and see what I had gotten myself into.

Most of the squash that we grow come from the species Cucurbita pepo.  Tatume’ is a variety of this species.  C. pepo is a native of Meso-America and archeological evidence shows that gardener’s there have been growing varieties of it for the past 8,000 to 10,000 years.  In America, squash is generally divided into two categories based on when they are harvested.  Summer squashes like yellow crook neck, zucchini, and pattypan (UFO) are harvested in their immature state.  Immature squash have a soft skin, seeds and flesh.  Winter squash like butternut, spaghetti, and acorn are simply squash that are allowed to ripen fully on the vine before they are harvested.  Winter squash have a thick hard skin and their flesh is generally firmer and sweeter than summer squash.  Tatume’ is one the rare varieties of squash that can be harvested as either a summer or winter squash.

Young Tatume'

Tatume squash is an open pollinated variety (heirloom variety) so you can save the seeds from year to year.  The fruits are round or oblate in shape.  Their skin is stripped green and they resemble a small watermelon or pumpkin in there immature form.  It is best to harvest Tatume’ when it is about the size of baseball.  If left to mature, their skin will become a mottled deep green and they can grow to almost the size of a soccer ball. 

Tatume’ appears to be the squash of many names.  Many seed catalogs list it as Tatume’ or Tatuma but I have also seen it listed as round zucchini and Mexican zucchini.  In the markets of Mexico, it is most often called calabacita (little pumpkin). 

Whatever you call it, it is a very versatile and flavorful little squash.  It is a staple of Mexican cuisine.  Mexican cooks use this squash in soups, breakfast dishes, casseroles and as a stand alone side.  This year, my wife and I have used it in lieu of yellow squash in all of our squash recipes.  We have fried it, baked it, boiled it with onions and made it into a casserole.  We even harvested and sautéed the blossoms.  However, our favorite thing about Tatume’ is the way that it cooks on the grill.  Tatume’ is more flavorful than yellow squash and its flesh is much firmer.  Its round shape and firm texture allows it to be cut into thick round patties that are perfect for the grill.  A little EVOO, garlic salt, season salt and fresh ground black pepper make for a simple but delicious summer side dish.

A ripe Tatume' ready for the grill!

 

 Tatume’ is a squash variety that posses all of the traits that make squash one of my favorite summer vegetables to grow.  It is hardy and productive.  Its long vines produce a fabulous show of big yellow flowers that draw bees into the garden.  It is tasty and versatile in the kitchen.  My accidental experiment with Tatume’ has convinced me to add this to my keeper list.  I highly encourage you to try it in your garden as well!

*This article was published in the June 2010 issue of “Hort Update” (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/newsletters/hortupdate/2010/jun/)

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29 Responses to Tatume’ – The wonder squash with many names

  1. Jessie says:

    Those are some goooood lookin Tatumes!! Very cool :)

  2. Moose says:

    Very interesting! Well done!

  3. Ken Locke says:

    The Tatume that I’m use to seeing is from a man from India.Long slender neck graduating into a bulbulous tail.These grow with a strange hexigon shape the lenght throughout.It has a uniform light green color,and matures into a gourd type shell approx. half the size of a watermelon.My plants otherwise look the same,and grow the same.I didn’t save the seeds from last year.Collassial BLUNDER esp. if it’s a species/type streight out of India as I believe to be probable.

    • Yupneck1 says:

      The more I have talked to folks, the more I have come to believe that the term “Tatume” is kind of generic for any green bulbous squash that people don’t have a formal name for. Since writing the article, I have seen a variety with a neck listed in a seed catalog as tatume’. Too bad you didn’t keep the seeds. I like to try new things and I would have enjoyed doing a seed swap with you. Thanks so much for taking time to leave me a comment.

  4. Ed Dotson says:

    I bought my tatume seed from a vendor called Baker Creek Seed. After reading your post I planted only two hills. We learned to love tatume after eating it at the Mexican grocery here in town. Truly a wonderful taste, so much better than the commonly known summer squash. I love squash pie, so I’m going to let some ripen out for fall. Thanks for your great post.

    • Yupneck1 says:

      I am so glad you got something useful out of my article. Like you, I only planted two mounds this year and it has been more than enough for my wife and I. BTW, I also use Baker Creek Seeds. I am currently growing some amarths and tigger melons that I got from them. They are a great company and I will continue to use them in the future. One tip. let one of your squash stay on the vine untill the vine dies. You can then harvest the seeds to share or keep. Thanks for taking the time to drop me a line. I really appreciate the comments.

  5. George says:

    Thanks for the info on Tatume. I also bought some from Baker Seed, but can’t find my catalog, and didn’t know when to harvest it (size wise), or what to do with it. I think slice-and-grill sounds like the way to go. Do you season it with EVOO, salt, and pepper before grilling it, or put them on after it’s cooked?

    • Yupneck1 says:

      I like to harvest mine when they are between baseball and softball size. I put the EVOO, salt and pepper on before the grill. My wife found a recipe for stuffed tatume (or summer squash) on youtube. It was excellent.

  6. Sara says:

    Hi! New here and new to gardening. Planning ahead for 2013 – the first spring I hope to plant. I have much to do to prepare my yard for a garden. I found you because I live in Austin which experienced record heat/drought last summer and we have strict watering rules (which I’d like to observe as much as possible). I’ve been reading plant descriptions on the Seed Savers Exchange website for drought resistant plants. I’ve also been reading about the Native American three sisters method of planting – planting corn, beans and squash together to let the plants nurture and assist one another. I think that is the route I’d like to go. I’m considering bloody butcher corn, rattlesnake snap beans and tatume. I’m leaning toward those varieties of bean and corn because they are drought resistant. How often do you water the tatume and what is the length of its growing season and harvest? Does it re-flower and continue after harvest? I’m finding little info about it online. Do you have experience with the rattlesnake beans or bloody butcher corn or that planting method? I can’t wait to read more of your blog! Thanks!

    • Jay White says:

      What a wonderful comment. Glad you are enjoying the blog. Please feel free to subscribe and send questions anytime. I love gardening and I am so excited when young people get started. If you want to learn all about Tatume’, I have a 2500 word article coming out next month in Texas Gardener. Since I want to answer all of your questions thoroughly I am going to send you an email directly. Again, Thanks for reading and i hope to hear back from you soon!

  7. Kea says:

    Thank goodness for your blog! I had a great summer 2011 for my zucchini until about halfway through SVBs took out all 4 of my plants. I was looking at the tatume seed on Bakers Creek also but decided to do a little more research and found your blog. I have a sqft garden. Do you think I can grow these vertical? Also I loved making zucchini bread last summer, are these tender enough for that?
    Thank you much!

    • Jay White says:

      Thank you for the lovely comment. I truly love Tatume’ I have no doubt that you can grow it vertically. The only thing I would suggest is stay on it while it is vining. I truly believe it can grow up to a foot a day before it flowers. Also, when the vines get too long I just trim them back. It might mean I get fewer fruit but at least I can walk around in my garden.

      As far as cooking with it, it is important to pick the fruit when it is baseball size. When we picked them at this size we could do everything with them. My wife made bread and a dessert that was very bread or cake like. Once the fruit get over that size, the seeds get big and tough. i don’t even like grilling it when the seeds get tough.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the great comment. If you ever have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask!

      • Donna Bentkowski says:

        Do you know of a zucchini you could grow on a stake or trellis that doesn’t have such a long vine that grows in Bulverde TX , just south of you.Take a look at this website,it is a cool way to grow zucchini in a small space.I am doing sg. foot garden.
        ..vinehttp://mysquarefootgarden.net/pruning-zucchini/Did u come across any zucchini that is bore resistent or ways to prevent bores? Where r you getting your seed from?E-mail me ASAP @bentkowskid @me.com.I sent a note to Emily to find out what kind of squash she uses or her reader Carole that sent her the video uses.Can u send me that article you wrote on Tatume. Would it be easier to grow it on a trellis or stake? Emily recomends 2 sq. I only have one available now with the short stake but have 2 sqs with the trellis. I am also growing corn , it is about a ft. long now. My stake is only 3feet long, my trellis is about 4.5 ft. tall.Have u any experience with the 3 sister method?

        • Jay White says:

          First, I am a big fan of square foot gardening. I am very impressed with the staking method even though I have never seen it. It looks like you can get it done in a single square. If you plant starts getting too tall, simply cut the top off. This will stop it from growing up and force foliage and fruit out onto the “branches”.

          About squash vine borer resistance. I have never found any squash, accept Tatume, to be truly resistant. The only way to prevent them from getting in is growing the plant under row cover. The row cover must be securely anchored to the ground all the way around the plant. Squash bugs are tougher. If their eggs overwintered in your soil, they may get in even with the row cover. To control them, I spray with neem oil. You can also place boards or shingles around the plant. The squash bugs will get under them and you can then remove them and squash them by placing on concrete and stepping on the board or shingle;

          About three sisters, I feel you are limited by the square foot method. To effectively grow corn you need several plants to pollinate each other. The beans can be interplanted as they just run up the stalks. It is the squash that gets you. The squash used in three sisters in a vining squash like Tatume or other winter squashes. Thesee squash can send out runners that are 12’ long. Not square foot friendly for sure.

          As to where I get my seeds. First, I save my own Tatume. For others I get them at a couple of local nurseries or sometimes online at Baker Creek Seeds or Seed Savers Exchange.

          Thanks for all of the great questions. I hope this helps. Good luck!

  8. DICK LOVETT says:

    JUST READ YOUR ARTICLE, AND I AM GOING TO TRY TO FIND TATUME SEEDS LOCALLY AND TRY THEM THIS YEAR. ABOUT SQUASH VINE BORERS, I PLANT BURPEE BUTTERBUSH EVERY YEAR AS THEY ARE NEVER ATTACKED BY THE BORERS. THE VINES ARE TO HARD FOR THEM TO PENATRATE. I USUALLY LOSE ABOUT 50% OF MY OTHER SQUASH (ACORN, ZUCCHINE, YELLOW) . I HAVE EVEN TRIED ROW COVERS BUT AFTER I TAKE THEM OFF WHEN THE PLANTS START TO FLOWER, I STILL GET BORERS. HOPE THIS MAY BE OF HELP.

    • Jay White says:

      Thanks for the great tip. I am not familiar with “butterbush” but you can bet i will be looking it up now.

  9. trichelle says:

    help!! frustrated with my tatume and lemon squash. Maybe I need to pick them smaller, but are you cooking only the flesh or the seeds and/ or skin as well? My tatume and lemon squash have a very high seed content and little flesh to work with.
    I purchased both plus Lebanese bush marrow (really like the Lebanese, lots of flesh and and a good flavor, almost a tuch sweet and very productive), from Baker Creek.
    After reading your comments about baseball size, I will try to pick smaller, but please give me input if anyone has any additional info. Thanks!!!

    • Jay White says:

      I would definately recommend harvesting sooner. For me baseball size is ideal but you could try harvesting a litle smaller. The smaller the fruit the softer the seeds. If you pick at the right time, you can eat the flesh and seeds. When we cook our squash we cook it skin and all. Depending on the recipe we have both eaten and discarded the skins. When we grill, we usually eat it skin and all. If you are boiling it, discard the skins.

  10. Sherry says:

    We are from Mid Michigan and this is our first year trying Tatume squash. We are growing it on the fence that borders our garden and it is doing wonderfully. We also get our seeds from Baker Creek. I was looking to grow a well rounded squash to take to our Farmers Market and am hoping this will be well received. We are also trying Tennessee sweet potato and wonder if you have any info on this squash. Thanks for sharing about Tatume. BTW we do the Three Sister method every year and have great luck with it. If I may get your email I would love to send you a picture of it growing on the fence.

    • Jay White says:

      Thank you for the comment. I truly love tatume’ because, like you said, it is such a well rounded squash. I thought I had grown all of the hierloom squash Baker Creek sold but I missed the Tennessee Sweet Potato. Please let me know how that goes. I would love to see your pictures! Please send them jswhitewaco@gmail.com. Send all you want. I would also like to see your Three Sister’s if you have any pics of that. Thanks for taking time to comment! I can’t wait to see your pictures.

  11. Donna Bentkowski says:

    Jay,
    How did Sherry’s Tennessee Sweet Potatoe Squash do? Did she share that info. to you.Also She was going to send you some pictures on her 3 sister plants ,I would love to see them if you still have them,also what kind of corn ,bean, and squash did she use?
    Also i was recently was told about sucrashield from nature force to kill organically soft bodied bugs,including aphids,leafhoppers,mealy bugs and tent caterpillars.Have u ever used it before?
    Can you send me a copy of that Article you wrote on Tatume Squash in Feb.2012 from the Texas Gardener Magazine.( you mentioned the article in your Jan. 26 2012 post in response to Sara comments).
    Thanks,
    Donna

    • Jay White says:

      I never heard back from her. I do not know anything about Sucrashield. However, I looked it up and it sounds ok. I have used DE before and I like it. However, I mostly use water. I spray the plants with a strong blast of water and kills most of them. Sometimes you have to spray every couple of days for a while but it really is pretty effective. And it’s free. A friend of mine’s brother has invented a tool that is perfect for killing all soft bodied bugs. It just screws onto your hose. here is the website if you are interested: http://miteyfine.com/Sales.html. I will e-mail you the article

      • Donna Bentkowski says:

        Thanks Jay for your quick reply.It is to bad that Sherry never got back to you.If anyone has a picture of the 3 sister plant I would love to see it.That link for that tool you sent me is awesome,I might get one.I usually use a 1 quart size bottle with a sprayer and i believe i tried those small 1-2 gallon lawn and Garden sprayers and they don’t get the aphids off very well.I have a new garden hose sprayer I might try next time before i buy their tool.What do you use?Thank you for the article.

  12. Dick Lovett says:

    The season is over now, but I thought I would let you all know how my butter cup squash came out. I had more than I could ever eat or freeze. I planted 2 hills of 3plants/hill, and harvested about 25 good size ones. Gave many away. We like them baked with butter and brown sugar. A big plus is the squash vine borers do not bother them. Like tatum’s they take a lot of room. Some vines were about 20ft long but as had been mentioned before, just cut off the ends if they get to long or go where you do not want them.

    • Jay White says:

      I went out and googled butter cup squash. OMG! What an amazing plant. The fruit looked lovely. Thanks for sharing with me. I am actually considering trying it next year.

      • Dick Lovett says:

        I have always bought Burpee’s seeds and usually started them in 4″ pots, around the beginning of april. That way they are ready to put out the end of May, which is our planting time here in OK. Most of the squash I harvested were 5/6 lbs. I first became aware of them when my dad grew them in his Victory garden during WW II. They are kind of like a small hubbard except the flesh is not stringy(more like an acorn squash).

    • Donna Bentkowski says:

      Dick,
      Is the butter cup squash the same as the butter bush squash you mentioned earlier in your comment made on March 2,2013 ? Have you ever tried growing them on a verticle cage.I tried growing the tatume in a probably 10 ft. tall cage but only got 2 tatumes before it died rather quickly,I might of seen some squash bug eggs but not the bug itself.The same thing happen to my spagetti squash ,its vines just started to die suddenly and that particular plant was not grown vertically.I also only got a few cucumbers,both container ones and ones grown vertically before the plants just wilted away. I guess if this happens again i will open up the vegetable and see if i can find the squash vine borer.Maybe that was the culprit.

      • Dick Lovett says:

        Donna: The butterbush is a bush variety of the butternut squash. I grow it as it takes very little space. I usually plant 3 or 4 plants per hill, and get 4 to 5 squash from each plant. They are very resistant to sqv’s which is another reason I grow them as I will at least be gaurenteed some squash to harvest. I often lose 50 to 70 % of my regular squash plants to the borer’s. I have not tried to grow them on trellis’s or in cages as they often weigh 5-6 lbs and would pull the vines down. I have grown acorn squash on trellis with good luck, as well as my cucumbers.
        This year I prepared my garden differently. At the end of last year I rototilled in a good amount of Ortho;s bug-be-gon along with fertilizer. Then this spring I repeated that, and this summer is the first time I have not had any sqv problems. Maybe just lucky but will do it again this fall.
        The squash I just wrote about is buttercup. Totally different from butternut. If you try it let me know what you think.

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