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Koginut squashes are generally round to cuboid in shape with curved edges, averaging 15 to 20 centimeters in diameter, and vary slightly in appearance depending on growing conditions. The rind is smooth and firm, ripening from dark green to tan when mature. Underneath the surface, the flesh is dense, dry, and bright orange, encasing a central cavity filled with stringy fibers and flat, cream-colored seeds. Koginut squashes are known for their silky, tender, and creamy consistency when cooked and develop a very sweet, nutty flavor with notes of citrus and vanilla.
Koginut squashes are harvested in the fall and can be stored through the winter.
Koginut squashes, botanically classified as Cucurbita moschata, are a modern variety that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. The cultivar was developed by Row 7 Seeds in New York, which is a company focused on breeding new varieties for flavor rather than size and uniformity. Koginut squashes are also known as Robin’s Koginut, a name given in honor of Robin Ostfeld, an organic farmer and close friend of Row 7 who helped develop the new variety. It took many years of extensive trials and research to develop the small squashes, and the hybrid variety is known for retaining favored traits of older squash varieties while also exhibiting improved characteristics such as flavor and size. While Koginut squashes are still considered somewhat rare in commercial markets, the variety is becoming well-known among farmers for their high yields, extended storage capabilities, and changing skin color to signify peak flavor and maturity. The variety is also increasing in popularity at farmer’s markets, celebrated by consumers and chefs for its concentrated, sweet, and nutty flavor.
Koginut squashes are an excellent source of vitamins B and C, which can help boost the immune system and increase energy levels within the body. The squashes are also an excellent source of minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, and phosphorus, and are a good source of beta-carotene, which is the orange pigment found in the flesh. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and is used to help prevent vision loss and repair cell damage.
Koginut squashes are best suited for cooked applications such as roasting, steaming, and baking. The squashes are most popularly sliced in half with the seeds removed and are roasted to create a soft, tender, and caramelized consistency. Once cooked, the flesh can be mixed into pancakes or muffins, stirred into risotto, cubed into grain bowls, or sliced and served with creamy sauces. Koginut squashes can also be tossed into soups, stews, and curries, incorporated into green salads, or served as a stand-alone side dish. In addition to the flesh, the seeds can be cleaned, salted, and roasted for a crunchy, salty snack. Koginut squashes pair well with meats such as poultry, beef, and fish, carrots, arugula, spinach, fennel, basil, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, fruits such as apples and pears, nuts such as pine nuts, pistachios, and pecans, rice, quinoa, and barley. The fresh squashes will keep for 1-3 months when stored whole and uncut in a cool, dry, and dark place.
The creation of the Koginut squash marked the beginning of a modern food movement to improve relationships between chefs, breeders, and farmers. When Row 7 Seeds developed a business plan to focus their efforts towards creating flavorful, quality produce, they caught the attention of Sweetgreen, a multi-location food establishment that sources healthy ingredients from local farms. Sweetgreen and Row 7, through the vision of well-known chef Dan Barber, developed such a close partnership that Sweetgreen ordered over 100,000 Koginut squash seeds one day before Row 7 was even officially launched as a business. Sweetgreen distributed the seeds to six different farms across the United States and trialed the variety in different climates. Once the squash was ready for harvest, it was incorporated into a new grain bowl designed by chef Barber and was sold at Sweetgreen’s multiple locations across the United States. The Koginut squash bowl combines goat cheese, walnuts, almonds, pears, Koginut squash, fennel, basil, spinach, rice, and buckwheat to create a savory-sweet meal. Barber also created Koginut squash fries as an alternative to regular potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Koginut squashes were developed by breeder Michael Mazourek under the Row 7 Seed company in New York of the United States. The variety was released to the market in 2018 and quickly gained a favorable reputation among chefs, food publications, and growers for its creamy consistency and sweet flavor. Today Koginut squashes are cultivated through select growers and are primarily found at local farmer’s markets and specialty grocers across the United States.