Appalachian Food

Cushaw or Curshaw

Cushaw or Curshaw

A few weeks ago Granny got some Cushaw squash and she gave one to me. I said how do you cook it? She said the gentleman she got them from told her his Grandma boiled it with brown sugar.

I set it on my kitchen counter and wished I had a real recipe to use. The Deer Hunter mentioned the cushaw to his friends at work and they said they’d heard of curshaws but had never heard of a cushaw. The Deer Hunter’s friend’s method of cooking their “curshaws” was similar to what Granny had been told.

Deciding I was going to cook that thing no matter what it was called I consulted my Appalachian Home Cooking book written by Mark F. Sohn. The first thing I noticed- Sohn calls it a Cushaw-which is apparently the correct name for the squash.

Sohn gives this short description of his recipe Cushaw Casserole:

Here, the squash is sweetened with brown sugar, but mountain cooks also use other sweeteners including sorghum syrup, molasses, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar twin or even granulated sugar.


  • 4 pounds fresh cushaw squash
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Best way to cook a cushaw

*Halve the cushaw-remove the seeds-and cut the squash into small cubes. Place cubes in a stock pot and cover with water. Cook cubes until they are soft about 30 minutes. Drain the cubes and allow them to cool.

Cooking cushaw squash

*After the cubes are cooled remove the skin from them and lay them in a baking dish. Mash the cubed squash with a fork and sprinkle the brown sugar and salt on top. (I only had about 2 pounds of cushaw so I didn’t use as much brown sugar or salt as the recipe called for-I’m not sure I even used half the amount called for-I just kind of eyeballed it)

Cooked cushaw

*Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the sugar is completely melted.


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  • Reply
    Auther Ray
    September 4, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    It is cooked just like a pumpkin.

  • Reply
    Karen Brown
    September 26, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    I love cushaw!! I have a bunch just waiting to be harvested from my garden right now.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    October 9, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Never heard of it, but the recipe is similar to what we used to cook acorn squash, and yes, it’s yummy!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    September 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Tipper, we call them cushaws. they make the best pies. Use the recipe you have for pumpkin. We used to love those better than pumpkin pies during the holidays. Granny always had to have cooked cushaw in the freezer for pie requests.

  • Reply
    Pharm Macy
    September 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    So glad to hear Ed is on his way to recovery, just in time fer peach cobler and ‘nanner puddin’.
    Thanks for the update!

  • Reply
    September 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I’m in the “never met a squash I didn’t like” camp, and that goes for soft summer squashes and hard winter squashes, both. Just today I ate what is probably my last homegrown pattypan for this year, and I’ll plant twice as many next year – my favorite, too, Ken!
    I’ll have to look for one of those c-shaws at the farm stand where I’ll soon be picking up a crate of winter squash. I like cooking the hard squash and pumpkins, but I kind of dread that first whack with a big knife, because I can’t usually get through the skin on the first try. Maybe I need a bigger knife?? Can’t be that I’m getting old…

  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    September 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    According to Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds the correct name is CUSHAW

  • Reply
    K O Pectate
    September 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Ida-I tried closing my eyes, clothespins, blindfolds and all sech but the visions in my head were worse than reality. So, I reckon I am relegated to sustenance more to the red or violet side of the color scale. If it makes you feel better, I can eat me some yeller peaches and nanners without a problem. Maybe I am on the road to recovery.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Hi Tipper!
    My mother from south Arkansas called the squash a “kuh-shaw”. The squash was split in half, seeds removed and placed face down in a large baking container with a bit of water. It was baked until tender and when cooled, frozen. The individual servings were treated like pumpkin, with all the regular spices, and the seeds were toasted with a bit of salt. It was easier to handle than a large pumpkin and the taste was similar, especially with the spices, molasses and brown sugar she added.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    September 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    My grandma used to cook them up just like she would a pumpkin and then make pie from them. She pretty much just used the same recipes as she did for pumpkin, but substituted cushaw.
    I LOVE cushaw pie! 😀

  • Reply
    Ida gotta Runs
    September 17, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    and Ed…Personally, I wouldn’t be eatin’ a Pie out of a patch the next year. If this years Cushaws and Pumpkins were growed together. Why, ’cause I think they just might hybridize themselves and make you a mustard colored (inside) pulp. Then it would also be a “Pumpshaw” or a “Cushkin” and I don’t know fer shore if that would be good eatin’! Ed I hate for yore taste buds to miss out on all these here winter squarsh and summer cucurbits types…Have you ever tried to put a blindfold on when you eat a squarsh pie?
    Thanks Tipper, and Ed.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    September 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Tipper: IT is evident that your ‘following’ folks love pies! As far as I can remember we never had a pie made from Cushaws! But I may have to busy eating to pay attention to the name!
    Are you going to be at the performance in Blairsville, at the Court House Friday? A group from Mars Hill will be performing! That is a mighty long way to drive. But they probably know that already! Hope to see you all there.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Now don’t go pointin’ them pretty
    little long fingers at me, cause
    I’m east of Andrews. Coo-shaw pie
    was always a favorite of my Aunt
    Toots. She’d send me one every year and they are more yellow than a pumpkin pie. I don’t know what she put in it, but it was Good!
    My favorite squash is the Patty Pan, then Yellow Crook Necks. My friend gave me an Acorn Squash this year and that booger was good too. I guess I like ’em all.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

    We always grow them and they make a better pumpkin pie than pumpkins do…you should try it. Cook it just like a pumpkin for pie…it’s delicious!

  • Reply
    Chad Barrett
    September 17, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Cushaw is what we called it also we peeled ours before we cooked it,some of the best pies ever.

  • Reply
    U R Wright
    September 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

    So if you think it is more like a squarsh, you call it curshaw. If you think its more like a punkin, you leave out the r because punkin don’t have an r. Or forget it altogether and make a rhubarb pie and get two r’s for the price of one.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

    My friend from Louisana introduced me to the Cushaw. I had never heard of it before, so I thought it was a Cajun thing…
    My grandmother always boiled hard squash, but I learned to bake it in the oven or place it in the microwave, then scoop out the soft meat (of course scoop out seeds before cooking). Much easier!

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    September 17, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Tipper, we love the cushaw, I planted 5 seeds of the orange striped cushaw that I ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, only one plant survived and it had only one cushaw but it a very large one. We use the meat out of about like the recipe you have but we use a lot to make pies, we like the cushaw pies 2 to 1 over pumpkin, we both prefer it, I will e-mail you the recipe for the pie.
    CUSHAW PIE (Regular or Low Sugar)
    1 1/2 cups mashed cushaw
    1 cup white sugar or 24 packets of Equal
    1/2 cup brown sugar or 1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar blend
    2 eggs, beaten separately
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 1/2 cups milk (use one small can evaporated milk and add regular milk to equal amount).
    1 teaspoon nutmeg
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    Combine and cook slowly over moderate heat until mixture begins to thicken. Place in 2 uncooked pie shells and bake at 350° for 20 minutes

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Dolores-I would say the taste was between a pumpkin and a squash : ) Thanks for the comment!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Matthew Burns
    September 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

    My family up here in West Virginia pronounces it “coo-shaw.” We usually used them for cooshaw pie, which is made like pumpkin pie. We have also had them baked (split in half) with brown sugar and butter, too. I’m partial to the cooshaw pie, of course I’ve never met a pie that I didn’t like.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 8:35 am

    That sure looks tempting; I think I will search out some road stands to find one. Did it have a squashy taste or a unique taste all its own? I like many kinds of squash, so this is definitely one to seek and find.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 8:26 am

    My Dad used to grow them and a lot of other varieties of squash. We called them cushaws. Nothing says fall like squash and turnip greens. YUM!

  • Reply
    Gina S
    September 17, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Chris, good fried of Mama, always called them Curshaws. Every fall she got one to cook and freeze. When Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around, she would bake pumpkin-like pies from Curshaw. I loved her pies. They were the best things. Over time I’ve bought them for the same purpose. When I see a Curshaw, memories of Chris flood my mind. Try using Curshaw pulp rather than pumpkin in a pie. The flesh may be more fibrous, but the taste makes up for that.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 17, 2013 at 8:12 am

    That ain’t a cushaw…curshaw…It is a PIE!
    Well, of course it still has the skin and seeds to it…but after all that work of tearing into it, it makes a mighty fine pie.
    Am I an expert…NO…did I promise a mountain friend of mine to make him a cushaw pie, since he planted some of the rascals…Yep, and it turned out great. He loved it and that is all that mattered. Would I go to all that trouble to make more pies? NOT…but I love Butternut, Acorn, etc. baked with brown sugar and butter…Who’d a thunk it with my girly figure?
    Thanks Tipper,
    Great reminder of the cushaw…and that is what most of the folks around here and in the foothills call the squash!
    PS…I love me some punmpkin too, but always dread the cuttin’, etc.
    My old hands are not as strong as they used to be…and arther’ works on them on cloudy days!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Mom’s favorite thing to raise in her garden was the cushaw. She had saved seeds from a solid white one for many years, claiming it was sweeter. I raised them a few times and was just wishing I had planted some this year. Mom has cooked hers every way possible. Using the oven was the least likely method as she had a wood/coal stove when the kids were at home. If she fried, boiled or baked them, she always removed the skin and used granulated sugar. Removing the skin was a job that required a sharp knife! The dried cushaw, that is later fried, has a unique flavor that is definitely the tastiest way to cook them.
    The last place I was able to buy a cushaw was at a nursery down by the lake in Western Kentucky. Most people I know have never heard of them.

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    September 17, 2013 at 7:46 am

    My uncle, Retho Carter, grew them for years. We use them for pie, just like sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Beautiful and delicious.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 17, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Curshaw, that’s what my grandmother called it. Larry brought one in a few years ago. He’d never seen or heard of it. It’s kind of like a cross between a squash and a pumpkin.
    It cooks up soft and a little sweeter that squash more like a pumpkin than a yellow and zucchini squash.
    We have such a variety of squash/pumpkin/gourds in the mountains here. In the fall the markets are full of them.
    I like broccoli too!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 7:44 am

    I grew Cushaw one year after being given seeds. There were solid white ones also. Folks use them some for decorations in the fall, but I always just cooked them and seasoned them as you would sweet potatoes.
    Many years ago an ole timer gave me a few large tough skinned squash he called permelon or permillion, and they had much milder flavor than pumpkin. I had to use a hacksaw to cut through skin. I looked for years for seeds which were largely grown in WV but unable to find. They were good keepers and great taste, but may have fell out of favor due to tough skin. If any Blind Pig readers ever find or grow them, they make the best pies ever.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 17, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Tha one looks so good. I am a big squash fan. Something I’ve noticed when in Murphy. Some of the people I have spoken to add an r to words that don’t have them. Just an observation as to why this squash has two names.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 17, 2013 at 7:16 am

    When I was a kid the neighbors down the road grew cushaws and pumpkins together. If I remember correctly they used them interchangeably. I never accepted an invitation to dine with them because I don’t like pumpkin and so, figured I wouldn’t like the cushaw either. They pronounced it coo-shaw. I have heard other people pronounce it with the emphasis on the last syllable.
    Come to think of it, my aversion to cushaw, cantaloupe, pumpkin, papaya, mango, etc might have to do with the color. Makes me think of changing a diaper.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2013 at 6:09 am

    Never met a squash I didn’t like. Boiled, fried, or baked, don’t matter. Have a similar love affair with broccoli.

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