My chef assistant Anna Yeung one day stopped by Hiroko’s Kitchen with an immensely long vegetable which I have never seen in my life. According to Anna, her father purchased cucuzza plants which were about 5 inches tall from Whitestone Nursery in Queens sometime during the first week of June this year. After carrying the plants back to his home he dug six circles into his garden about a food apart from each other and planted them. Fortunately, all plants grew tall. The cucuzza plant needs plenty water so this became her father’s job over the summer. He was careful not to forget to water them every day. Anna’s father knows when to harvest the vegetable. The cucuzza should have light green color on the skin. This means that the skin is paper thin and flesh is moist and tender with no seeds. When the vegetable starts to bear whitish spots on the skin, it is a sign that the skin is getting tougher and the flesh becoming seedy. Anna’s family harvested about 10 of these immense cucuzza squash.
In this picture you can see how long the cucuzza grew! That night I sauteed cucuzza in a skillet with a little olive oil, shoyu, and sea salt. It had a very clean, refreshing taste, perfect for the hot evening. Thank you, Anna for introducing me to a new vegetable. And, we continued to enjoy the vegetable for many nights after that.
Anna said that this is an Italian vegetable, but I was not sure if it was until two days ago when I visited for the first time Mario Batali’s new creation, EATALY supermarket and restaurants (jammed with customers) in Chealsea and there I spotted cucuzza! But they were much shorter and less fresh looking than the gift I received from Anna and her father. Personal and continuous care is necessary to produce a squash like the one I received from Anna. Besides, there would be no room to store and display monster squash like the one I received.