Tag: squash

6 Squashes to Grow this Winter

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

Waltham Butternut

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

Golden Hubbard

Delicata

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.

How to Grow Summer Squash

There are many varieties of squash that we can grow in our gardens, everything from acorn squash to pumpkins, but crookneck, or summer squash has to be one of my favorites.

I love the cheery yellow flowers that brighten up my vegetable garden and how they eventually turn into the delicious vegetable that makes a great addition to my summertime meals.

Summer squash thrives in warm temperatures and should be sowed about 4 weeks after the last frost date in your area. The large seeds will sprout quickly, so you can plant them directly in the garden. For successful germination the soil temperature should be about 62 degrees F. People who live where summer temperatures often extend into fall can sow a second crop in mid-July or early August.

You can get a jump-start by planting seedlings, but be aware that squash resents being transplanted, so be gentle with the roots and retain as much of the root ball as possible. If you start your own seeds indoors use a peat or newspaper container. These containers will break down in the soil over time so the entire thing can be planted without disturbing the roots. If you are using peat containers, soak them in water and remove the bottoms before planting them in the garden. It is also important to know that squash roots grow fast and furious. Be sure to get your seedlings transplanted soon after the second set of leaves appears so that the roots don’t become crowded.

Unless you have a lot of mouths to feed, you don’t need to grow many plants to produce enough squash for your family. I have made the mistake of planting too much and ended the season with more than I could give away. One or two plants are plenty for a 4 person family.

Summer squash prefers nutrient rich, well-drained soil. Prepare your beds before planting with a generous amount of compost or well-rotted manure and an application of an all-purpose fertilizer such as 13-13-13.

Summer squash grows on a bush type plant rather than a vine as with pumpkins or winter squash, which means it takes up less room in the garden. Seeds should be sown about 24 inches apart and 1 inch deep in mounds of soil that are spaced about 2 to 4 feet apart. You can sow 3 or 4 seeds per mound, but once the plants start to take off (2 to 3 inches high) thin to 1 or 2 plants.

For a good yield it is important to give squash consistent moisture at all stages of growth.

Squash have 2 kinds of flowers, one that produces pollen (male) and one that produces fruit (female). It is necessary for the male flower to pollinate the female for squash to develop. Male flowers usually appear first, with the female following, so don’t panic if, initially, the flowers don’t set fruit.

You can distinguish the female from the male in that the female flowers have a stocky center and an immature squash at the base.

If you are using floating row covers to protect your plants from insects, remove them at the first sign of a female flower so that bees and other beneficial insects can help in the pollination.

The rule of thumb is that once planted, squash requires about 50 to 65 days to produce edible fruit. And summer squash ripens very fast; about 5 to 7 days are all it takes for a flower to transform into a fruit ready for harvest. Gather squash when they are young and tender. Old, large fruits with tough skins should be removed from the vine and thrown away. This will encourage more flowers and fruit.

For the best flavor eat your summer squash within a few days after harvesting. It will keep in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator for about 1 week.

In the Kitchen: Butternut Squash

Of all the squashes I have grown in my garden, I believe that butternut is one of my favorites, although pumpkins are certainly at the top of the list as well.

Squash can be divided into three categories: summer, autumn and winter. To put it simply, 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 three categories.


I like butternut squash because it has such a sweet flavor. You will begin to see this squash in the market in fall and they will continue to be available through the winter.

When you select a butternut squash choose one that feels heavy with no blemishes or moldy spots on the skin.Butternut squash will store for quite a long period of time. I’ve kept it for as long as two months. I simply
keep them in a cool, dark area. I once made the mistake of placing one in the refrigerator and the cold temperature caused it to go bad pretty quickly.