My home state of Minas Gerais in Brazil has a varied cuisine. Mainly focused on meat and amazing sweets, the “side” vegetable dishes rock too. I especially enjoy those made with unusual veggies, such as giló, similar to eggplant with a slight bitterness, almeirão, somewhat similar in taste to escarole or frisée, couve mineira, a very tender kind of collard green that tastes really good added to salads, and chayote, which is available in the US. Another vegetable that I grew up eating is cambuquira, though I never see that one here.
Cambuquiras are the tender shoots of summer squash and pumpkin plants.
Squash and pumpkin take lots of space to grow. Now that we have a larger garden plot we planted a few. We’ve got at least three kinds: zucchini, yellow squash and patty pans. They’re growing so fast that they’ve begun shading and crowding out the tomato plants. Our “solution” to this “problem” was to thin them out. In Minas, pumpkin shoots are never wasted. So really I ended up harvesting them for dinner.
To harvest squash shoots, break them off about 20 inches from the very ends. Be careful because they have lots of little spikes. I took about 15 shoots for a side dish for three people. You need to peel the outer skin away (with the spikes). Do that by breaking them into smaller tubes, about 8 inches long. As you break them you’ll be able to peel the skin away. It is a bit labor intensive but well worth it. Keep the tiny little leaves, as even though they have some spikes, they’re extremely flavorful and the spikes will disappear with cooking. We also had some tiny squashes attached at the ends of ours, which is lovely.
My mother used to sauté them in rendered pork fat and garlic. That was long ago. Here’s a vegan version:
cambuquira refogada AKA summer squash shoot sauté
1 bunch of summer squash shoots, cleaned as described above
3 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on high. As soon as you notice the aroma of warm olive oil, add garlic and sauté for few seconds. Add cambuquira shoots, salt and toss to combine. Cover and cook on high temperature for about 8 minutes or until soft with an al dente texture. If too dry add one tbsp of water to prevent burning. Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle remaining olive oil over with sprinkles of black pepper. I served this as a side to go with mushroom polenta.