MY MOUNTAIN STASH
"Stop! Turn around," I screamed.
We had just flown past a farmers' stand on the side of a back road that led to Woolwine in southwest VA, on the way home from the Galax VA area and the Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th Anniversary celebration, where I signed copies of THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
"Apples!" I yelled louder. So he stopped and made the turn, I'm sure anticipating pies and crunchy snacks.
But this stop was a gold mine. Apples, warty pumpkins, sourwood honey, cushaw pumpkins, and a long squash I did not recognize.
It's a what? How do you spell that? "I dunno," said the farmer. "But I do know the deer love them. They've pawed their way through several boxes worth." At two feet long and several inches thick, it will provide a lot of flesh to devour, I thought.
An internet search tells me that PERMELONS are a term for Old Appalachian winter squashes that are found especially in West Virginia and southwestern Virginia.
Another source says they were grown by Native Americans all over the east.
Someone else said they were a sweeter relative of pumpkin, and more nutritious.
Another site said they were available at farmers markets in SW VA, and that she makes permelon butter, like apple butter, or serves it like any other squash.
I'm thinking I'll roast some cubes with olive oil. Any one else have any suggestions or experience with permelons?
Now this one I recognized as an heirloom squash - the cushaw or sometimes spelled kershaw - that many farmers in the Blue Ridge are growing. You treat it like any other pumpkin or butternut squash, roasting it to use the flesh in pumpkin pies or in soups.
It will keep well for several months if stored in a cool, dark space.
I plan on using this big boy in a spicy, ginger soup. Any other suggestions?
A favorite and a treasured food source, sourwood honey comes from what's also known as the "Lily of the Valley" tree. The highest concentration of sourwood trees are found in western NC, with some in Virginia and Georgia. Bees flock to sourwood blossoms in late June through July, with new crops of honey available in August and September.
This honey is spicy yet sweet, a bit floral, with a rich, buttery feel. I just love it, and save it to pour on toast where I can appreciate its taste pure and unadulterated.