I knew this would be good from the moment I first saw it on the endcap display. A few years earlier, Amy Goldman had impressed me with her scrumptious homage to melons in Melons for the Passionate Grower; now she's done it again, this time for cucurbitas (summer and winter squashes, which include my favorite vegetable-the Pumpkin!).
The Compleat Squash has all of the photographic panache of MFTPG, and all the passionate style of prose besides. The vast majority of listed varieties each have an extravagant, portrait-style photo of the fruit and often an entire page of commentary to accompany it. If a species has any points of special interest that are not obvious by the picture, you can be sure Ms. Goldman will expand on them at length and with flourish. She also loves to throw in anecdotes about how and from whom she came across the original seeds, recipes, stories behind funny names, and significant historical context for certain groupings of cucurbitas. Not since Georgeanne Brennan have I read such romantic, detailed tributes to vegetables! Too bad that there are human limitations on how many different cucurbitas a person can possibly grow, catalog and photograph in two seasons; you get the definite feeling she would have liked to have included them all, but had to content herself with merely 150 heirlooms.
But while Ms. Goldman may be in love, she's not blind. Each listing is straightforward about the variety's suitability (or sometimes lack of) for table use, decorating, carving, and/or livestock feed. You also get an estimate of size, weight, rind color, flesh color, color rating (!), fiber, date of introduction, synonyms and seed sources. There is also an introductory section that lays out nicely the growing and care of cucurbitas in general. Like a good matchmaker, she makes sure you and your prospective squash are well prepared before the planting bed is ever cultivated.
It is clear that the author wants us to not only appreciate cucurbitas in theory but to grow them in fact, harvest them, handle them, use them and save their seeds for the future. These are living treasures, *heirlooms*, that will disappear forever if we don't. That's a loss for our tastebuds and for the precious genetic diversity of the planet.
Okay, enough soapboxing. Let's get our hands dirty!
-Andrea, aka merribelle