In the time since I joined this community, I have been thinking more often about the many traditional landraces that already exist. One result of this line of thinking has been that I have identified potential projects that involve collecting, maintaining, and vitalizing historic landraces.
One such project which I am committed to will be to grow Candy Roasters at my farm on a consistent basis. There are several sources of Cucurbita maxima seed from the legacy Candy Roaster landrace, and among the existing sources, some represent inbred cultivars while others retain some but not all of the documented diversity that used to exist.
Modern Candy Roaster Landrace
I am calling this project the Modern Candy Roaster because while I am interested in trying to maintain the type as it is and has been, there is a chance this project will lead to squash which are distinct(or don’t do justice to the original!)
What I have learned so far is that the Candy Roaster squash is a landrace developed by the Cherokee people in the southern Appalachians. It is variable in size and shape with more than 40 distinct forms according to Bill Best at the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center. Candy roasters consistently feature sweet, fine-textured orange flesh, while varying in size from 10 lbs to more than 250 lbs; shape (including round, cylindrical, teardrop, and blocky); and color (pink, tan, green, blue, gray, and orange).
Sources of Candy Roaster diversity that I am working with:
- Bill Best’s Candy Roaster - Sourced from Haywood County, NC and distributed by the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center. They can weigh up to fifty pounds and more and can be over four feet long. Believed to still have some diversity from the landrace.
- North Georgia Candy Roaster - Small, uniform fruits, a cultivar selected from the landrace
- Unknown candy roaster - This is where my interest started when I bought one from a produce display in EKY. I was aware of the term candy roaster but didn’t know anything about it. Club shaped banana, orange/pink, 20lbs, sweet flesh, 2 fruit per vine, large vines, large leaves, true breeding so probably inbred, but will be making a commitment this year to growing this out for crossing in multiple locations since I have a lot of seed
- Candy Roaster Melon Winter Squash - From Western NC., 6-30 lb Pinkish-orange fruits with some blue-green color. Ribbed pumpkin shape, big vines. Part of the Ark of Taste project. Matches the description of one of two Candy Roaster types that were described in a 1920 North Carolina newspaper article.
- Gete Okosomin or Kentucky Squash - Stewarded by the people of the Miami Nation of Indiana, the name translates to “cool old squash” in the Anishinaabe language. It looks a lot like a Candy Roaster, and comes from the same general region, although the original source was from the Miami Nation instead of the Cherokee.
The coming season is the first that I will be growing most of these and it will be the first year for crosses. I do look forward to sharing my progress, and hearing from anyone else with Candy Roaster experience or interest.