February 28, 2024

Maycock and Nanticoke Squash

by Tessa Desmond in Projects

Maycock Squash on display at the Variety Showcase hosted by the Culinary Breeding Network.  Oct 2023.  Photo by Tessa Lowinske Desmond.

Maycock and Nanticoke Squash Revitalization Project

Faculty Lead: Tessa Lowinske Desmond

Collaborating Partners: Experimental Farm Network, Native Roots Farm Foundation, Ujamaa Coopertive Farming Alliance

The Maycock and Nanticoke Squash Project and the Lenni Lenape Blue Pulling Corn Project are both revitalization projects that aim to bring the seeds of Lenape varieties back to Lenapehoking and build interest in growing, eating, and maintaining them.  Ancestral seeds have an important role to play in resilient agriculture because they have evolved to survive and fill ecological niches in their specific places.  Ancestral seeds can also carry important stories, histories, and lessons for survival.  Through the revitalization projects for these varieties, we are working to understand and help recover the agricultural wisdom and cultural knowledge related to these crops.  

Maycock Squash is a summer squash or Curcurbita pepo.  Nanticoke Squash is a winter squash or Curcurbita maxima.  Each of these squash varieties have their own story but they were both shared with The Seed Farm by Nate Kleinman, co-founder and co-director of the Experimental Farm Network.  We received seeds of the Nanticoke Squash in 2022.  They were planted in the first garden at The Seed Farm.  During the harvest season, Kleinman introduced us to Courtney Streett, founder and director of Native Roots Farm Foundation.  Our three organizations joined together to harvest the seeds with students from AMS 415: Land and Story in Native America.  While we separated squash seeds from pulp, we talked about another squash whose cultivation is attributed to Nanticoke people, the Maycock.  Maycock is a the Nanticoke word for squash.  Kleinman had seeds for that too.  

Since that first meeting, our organizations have begun working together to revitalize seed stock and share the stories of these two varieties of squash.  Native Roots Farm Foundation passed out starts for the Nanticoke Squash at Pow Wows in summer 2023.  The Seed Farm grew the entire collection of Maycock varieties during that same summer in an attempt to understand the diversity of this landrace squash.  In 2024, we will continue growing this squash in partnership with Native Roots Farm Foundation by planting it in a Three Sisters garden with corn seed from the Lenni Lenape Blue Pulling Corn Revitalization Project.  Our organizations will tend these plantings together, one garden in Princeton at The Seed Farm and one garden closer to Native Roots’ headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.

While the goals for both squash in this project include reestablishing the varieties in Lenapehoking and reuniting the varieties with people in the Lenape Diaspora, we also hope to work together to breed the Maycock variety back to its original landrace character.  The crop that was grown at The Seed Farm in 2023 presented itself in 22 distinct phenotypes.

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