The Red Warty Thing

I love garden surprises.  This fall, my surprise came in the form of a massive squash called The Red Warty Thing (formerly called Victor).  Back in July I pulled down my cucumber vines.  This left me with a 33’ trellised row in need of planting.  So, I ordered 5 varieties of heirloom winter squash from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com).  In all honesty, I didn’t plan on eating any of them.   I wanted to use them in the fall decorations around our house. 

I have never enjoyed watching anything grow more than I did this Red Warty Thing

I have never enjoyed watching anything grow more than I did this Red Warty Thing

When I ordered The Red Warty Thing, I thought I would be growing a lovely orange, bumpy, softball sized decoration to mix in a bowl with my gourds, acorns and leaves.  I was very surprised when my “decoration” turned into a 16 pound pumpkin! 

Watching this squash turn into a pumpkin has truly been the highlight of my fall garden

Watching this squash turn into a pumpkin has truly been the highlight of my fall garden

I have grown very few things that I enjoyed as much as this squash.  In fact, watching it grow became a part of our evening routine.   It produced huge vines with huge, beautiful leaves.  After that came the huge yellow flowers.  Once the bees did their thing, we enjoyed watching the light yellow football shaped fruit that was about the size of golf ball turn into the huge Red Warty Thing.  For the first month, it kept its yellow color.  Once it got about as big as it is now, the skin started to change.  Then it developed slight ribs like a pumpkin.  Then the bumps started forming and the color started changing ever so slightly every day. 

This baby Red Warty Thing has gone from golf ball to softball size in less than a week

This baby Red Warty Thing has gone from golf ball to softball size in less than a week

As much fun as it was to watch the squash grow, I will probably not grow it (or any other squash) for a couple of years.  The reason I have finally decided to give up on squash for a while was a little green bug called the cucumber beetle.

This little green bug has finally convinced me to put away my squash seeds for a couple of years

This little green bug has finally convinced me to put away my squash seeds for a couple of years

Now I am a pretty experienced gardener.  However, I have never experienced insects that were this invasive and this destructive.  While I am accustomed to squash bugs and squash vine borers, I have never encountered anything like the cucumber beetle before.  As soon as the foliage reached the top of the trellis, these guys showed up.  And not just a few either.  They came en mass.  Over the next few weeks they systematically stripped all of the foliage and flowers from my 15 plants.  The only way I could keep ahead of them was to let the squash vine on the ground.  For some reason the bugs only ate the foliage on the trellis. 

The cucmber beetles ate everything - leaves and flowers included!

The cucmber beetles ate everything – leaves and flowers included!

Since I grow organically, I didn’t have any means to fight them.  I never noticed a larval stage.   One day I noticed holes in the leaves and the next day the trellis was covered in a swarm of green bugs.  These beetles finally showed me that as an organic grower I am truly defenseless against a determined invader. 

Since this is going to be the last winter squash I grow for a while I decided to do a little research and see what I could do with a 16 lb squash.  Turns out, I can do a whole lot.  According to the internet, the Red Warty Thing has a flavor and texture that allows you to use it in all of your pumpkin recipes.  So I can puree it and use it to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup.  It can also be cubed and roasted just like an acorn or butternut squash.  Since I really like all of these things, I am looking forward to helping my wife convert our “decorative” squash into a plethora of pumpkin dishes for all of our Thanksgiving guests.

11 thoughts on “The Red Warty Thing

    • Hey Ang!!! Been following your house progress on FB. The cucumber beetles only got the squash. However they got all of it. I had 6 varieties and they attacked all of them.

  1. Jay, could you use some kind of marigold potion to control the cucumber beetles? What other organic solutions are there for this problem? Don’t leave us hanging! 😉

    Very interesting blog, as always.

    • Thanks Michael! Like I say, I am truly stumped. I have tried DE, but it only seems to work against larva and soft bodied insects. I tried Neem and it really didn’t have much affect. I have not tried a marigold based product. That sounds interesting as a companion planting of marigolds with my tomatoes did seem to keep the bugs away for a while. I have talked to other gardeners and the concensus seems to be either grow under cover or learn to deal with the bugs. One thing I am considering is creating a “buggy” garden on one side of my property and then plant the other things that are not so buggy on the other side. Hoping if I can’t get rid of them maybe I can isolate them. I have to figure out something because I really love squash!

      • Neem oil isn’t something you use and instantly see results. Neem oil works by affecting how the bugs reproduce, essentially slowing down their ability to mature and reproduce more. With that said, it takes several applications over the course of a few weeks to really see any difference. You can try doing a root drench with azamax (made with active ingredient in neem oil) and the plant will suck it up into its tissue so as bugs eat the plant they eat the neem. Best results are seen with root drenching with azamax and spraying with water/neem oil.

        • Thanks for the tips. I was not familiar with azamax. That sounds like a good fit for my practices as I regularly mix organic fertilizers and do a drench feeding. I could easily incorporate an azamath drench. Thanks for reading and thanks again for the tips!

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  3. I got these by accident! Porch decorations the previous year got tossed on the compost pile at the end of the season. I had a variety of decorative things tossed out there…, so when vines appeared in spring it was a mystery of what I was getting. I still don’t know my squash / pumpkins other that is was purty so I started looking for pictures in seed catalogs. Turns out I have red warty things and Fairytale pumpkins. The good news is apparently both are good to eat as well as porch decor !

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