Have you wanted to grow squash in your vegetable garden but find that your plants are plagued by squash vine borers before you can harvest even one squash? Or maybe you are looking for a variety of squash that can be used both as a summer or winter squash? Or perhaps you would just like to try growing an unusual squash that would be an exotic addition to any edible landscape. If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then next summer you might want to grow Tromboncino Rampicante or Italian Edible Squash.
This squash goes by several common names: zucchetta rampicante, climbing zucchini, climbing crookneck, trombolino d’albenga, trombetta and serpentine squash. It hails from the city of Albenga on the Italian Riviera where it is used in gnocchi and ravioli. Though most squash are in the species Cucurbita pepo, Tromboncino is a cultivar of Cucurbita moschata, which also includes butternut squash. Since its stem is not as hollow as C. pepo, it is more resistant to squash vine borers. Even squash bugs and powdery mildew do not appear to affect it as readily. Plus its name “Rampicante” gives away one of its other characteristics. It grows “rampantly,” with vines often exceeding 15 feet in length. These long stems, particularly if grown along the ground rather than on a trellis, can root at the nodes, thus giving the plant an even better chance to beat squash vine borers and other insects and diseases.
Some people compare the mild taste of a young Tromboncino to a zucchini. If left to mature as a long-lasting winter squash, it is more like a watery butternut squash and it keeps very well. If harvested at about 12 or up to 36 inches, the long neck makes perfectly round slices as opposed to other varieties of squash which have a less uniform shape. Another advantage to the long neck is that there are no seeds in it. The bulb, which contains the seeds, can be stuffed with a variety of fillings.
Tromboncino is very easy to grow and likes our hot Dallas weather. It can be started from seed in late spring, once the ground warms up. A strong fence or arbor is recommended, especially if you want long, straight squash. Even on a four foot fence, the Tromboncino pictured in this article started to bow once it touched the soil. Tromboncino grown on the ground however tend to look less like trombones and more like French Horns, with many twists and curves. Some people have said that the hardened curved winter squash make great legs for a Halloween spider; while the long straight Tromboncino squash make cute “weiner dogs.” Because Tromboncino are so prolific, there are many recipes for how to cook with both the squash and the male flowers on the web.
So, if you want to make your garden sing, next year give Tromboncino Rampicante a try. Just be sure however to give it a lot of room or you may find, like one of the commenters on the web, that he had “…really enjoyed seeing the plants take off and cover the compost heap where I planted it to give plenty of nutrients. I figured since pumpkins have done well as volunteers there that this squash would too, and this one did. Two plants covered the heap and would have covered my SUV, too, if the carport hadn’t shaded them too much.”