One aspect of the changing seasons that I really enjoy is that each one brings its own specialties from the vegetable garden. I always look forward to creating meals made with fruits and vegetables that capture the essence of a season. In spring, I enjoy peas, lettuce and spinach and in summer it’s peaches, tomatoes and peppers. Food is just so much better when prepared with fresh ingredients.
One of my favorite autumn vegetables is squash, not the summer variety but the thick skinned types like acorn, butternut and spaghetti. These are also known as autumn or winter squash because they mature late in the season and can be stored for several months.
This year I am growing several varieties of winter squash. When friends visit the garden they ask me what I’m going to do with all that squash. Little do they know that baskets of squash will soon be appearing on their doorstep. Here at the onset of fall, I have 6 types of squash that are ready to be harvested.
Hi Beta Gold Spaghetti
Table King Bush Acorn
Hi Beta Gold Spaghetti – Hi-Beta Gold has rich orange flesh, which makes it an excellent source of nutrients, especially the natural antioxidant beta-carotene. It is also a source of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and minerals.
Table King Bush Acorn – This acorn squash is a bush type, which means that it takes up less room in the garden. Plants bear lots of 6-inch-long, 5-inch-wide fruits with small seed cavities and moist, golden flesh. It can be stored for several months and is one of the best for baking.
Waltham Butternut – This is an All-American Selection, which means it has been awarded for its superior for home garden performance. It has a sweet, dry, orange-colored flesh. It’s great for baking and pies and is high in vitamin A.
Sweet Meat – I selected this one for its unique appearance. It is squat like a Cinderella pumpkin with a gray outer skin. The flesh is yellow-orange, firm and sweet. It’s a rampant grower, so you will need plenty of space to accommodate this vine, but the fruits are large – 8 to 10 inches. I’ve really enjoyed growing it.
Golden Hubbard – This is another variety that needs room to grow, but you will be rewarded with lots of 10 pound, lemon-shaped fruits. The exterior is orange with tan stripes. I find it has a nice, sweet flavor when cut into chunks and baked or steamed.
Delicata – If you are short on space, try Delicata. It is very prolific, but the vines are short. I love the ivory cream skin with dark green stripes. It has a rich, sweet potato like flavor.
If you are growing winter squash in your garden, wait until the fruit has matured to harvest. You should be able to press into the skin with your fingernail and not leave an indentation. Select fruits that are blemish free and firm. Gently remove any dirt and set the squash in a warm, sunny location to cure. It usually takes just a few days for the skin to harden and any scratches to seal.
If stored correctly, many varieties of winter squash can last for several months. Acorn squash will keep through Thanksgiving, while butternut can be expected to last all winter. For the best results select an area to store your winter squash that stays cool and dark like a cellar or pantry. Line your shelves or tabletop with newspaper and place the squash on the paper with about 2 inches breathing room between each one. It is a good idea to check on them every week or two to make sure that none are going bad. Those that are blemish free to begin with will last the longest.
In addition to being tasty and long lasting, winter squash qualify as health food. They are loaded with iron, riboflavin and vitamins A and C. In fact, winter squash have more of these than their summer cousins like yellow crookneck and zucchini squash.
Good to Know: Squash Categories
Squash can be divided into 3 categories – summer, autumn and winter. Summer squashes are those types eaten when the fruit is immature and the skin tender, while winter squashes are those types that are allowed to mature and ripen on the vine before being harvested. Autumn squashes are also eaten after they have matured, but they do not store as long as winter squashes. Most of us are familiar with summer squashes such as crook neck and zucchini. Acorn squash is classified as an autumn squash and butternut is a winter squash. Pumpkins actually occur in all 3 categories.