Plant Profile: Butternut Rogosa Violina “Gioia”

I really enjoy butternut squashes. They have a smoother texture than other squashes, making them great for soups, but they can also be used in any recipe that calls for “pumpkin” – pies, breads, torts, even pasta. I picked this butternut because it’s not one you can find in the grocery store. After growing it, I have a definite list of “con’s” for this variety but I do plan on growing it again - because it is so much tastier than the grocery store varieties.

Butternut Rogosa Violina "Gioia" Squash
Photo by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

So, let’s get the list of “con’s” out of the way (as always, this is geared toward my Ogden-based gardening crowd)…

  • It does not like our dry heat. It wilted badly every afternoon unless I watered it extra. I hate watering extra.

  • It is susceptible to Powdery Mildew. While it didn’t die once the mildew hit, it also didn’t produce any more viable fruits – so I only got 5 fruits from 6 plants. I didn’t try any treatments during the season (like the milk-water solution), so I will try that if need be next time I grow it. I’m going to wait a season before growing again to help with disease control in my garden.

  • The bumpy skin, though aesthetic, is a pain in the patookey if you are trying to process the fruits raw. The bumpy skin also makes better hiding spots for critters and moisture.

So, with all of that – why would I grow it again, and why would I recommend it to others?

  • It really does taste better than the Waltham butternuts
  • It’s different. You aren’t going to find this beauty anywhere but a few specialty markets at certain times of the year.
  • It is also a great keeper, lasting over 6 months in a root cellar.
  • Each fruit is pretty effing huge for a butternut. In the 7 to 10 pound range.
  • It is easy to know when the fruit is mature; the skin gets beautifully bumpy and turns a dark khaki tan.

There are a few things I’d like to try next time I grow it – the first being to actually treat the Powdery Mildew if it shows up again. This year was a bad year for that problem in Ogden & Weber County.

After that, I will try a better soil nutrient mix. The bed the butternuts were in was heavily amended with a LOT of coffee grounds – so it may have been too nitrogen rich, giving rise to some beautiful leaves but not a lot of fruits.

Finally, I want to experiment with a fabric floating row cover over it to see if the filtered light helps it handle our higher-altitude sunshine, and do a drip line irrigation to help keep it watered without splashing the leaves as much. I hand watered everything this year, which I know probably made things more susceptible to the mildew.

Despite the potential extra work these butternuts may require for our hot, dry, high climate – I do hope you’ll give this sweetie a try. I’ll be sure to link an update next time I grow it.