Thelma Sanders Squash is a 15 cm-long, vining, yellow squash which produces early and is shaped like an acorn. This vegetable is a member of the winter squash family, which has a rich history of varying shapes and sizes and tastes; the Thelma Sanders Squash has deeply ribbed skin, a lovely cream color, and savory flesh. Besides its nutty, hearty flavor, it has a strong reputation for productivity (yield) and winter keeping ability, both of which offer food security for families who grow and enjoy this variety.
Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) of Decorah, Iowa acquired this variety in 1984 from SSE member and squash collector Tom Knoche of Ohio. Knoche had received the variety from Evert Pettit through the SSE members’ Yearbook. Evert, in turn, received the variety from Mrs. Thelma Sanders of Adair County, Missouri. Pettit seems to be the one who coined the name “Thelma Sanders’ Sweet Potato Squash” when he began offering it to the SSE membership in 1981.
In Thelma’s own words from 1980, this squash is “fine meated, better than sweet potatoes.” The variety is a popular offering among the members of SSE and its culinary usage is similar to a typical acorn squash. Some options for preparation are roasting and baking, with the goal of making simple roasted squash or more involved recipes like soup, ravioli, pie or pasta.
Winter squash is readily grown in the American Midwest. Thelma Sanders Squash can be grown organically with good result. It is also a prolific producer of seeds, which lends itself readily to continued propagation. These factors bode well for the production of this home gardener’s favorite in more commercial venues.
Thelma Sanders passed away in 1998, but her legacy lives on, including in the form of this delectable family treasure. While Thelma Sanders Squash is not currently commercially available, its valued place in the home gardener’s selection promises a hopeful future for its preservation.