Winter Squash – Gardening Tips from the Culinary View
as recommended by Michael Vidrine
Did You Know…
Squash are native to Mesoamerica and the Andes and have been in cultivation for over 8000 years. Squash are broadly grouped into 2 classifications – summer squash and winter squash. Summer squash are harvested while the fruit is immature and tender. Winter squash are harvested at maturity with hard outer skins so they can keep for long periods. Squash seeds and flowers are edible and are often prepared separately from the fruit. In the Americas, squash was often planted in combination with beans and corn – a grouping know as the “Three Sisters”.
Types of Squash
Summer squash varieties include zuchinni, crookneck, straight neck, scallop and cocozzelle. Winter squash varieties include pumpkin, acorn, butternut, kabocha and spaghetti. Most squash varieties will have vines several feet in length but shorter bush varieties have been developed particularly for summer squash.
When to Plant
Squash are a warm season crop generally direct seeded after the last frosts in the spring. Additional plantings can be made throught the warm season to extend the harvest.
Summer squash are harvested when tender and immature. With their rapid growth, the fruit may need harvesting every couple of days. The refrigerated fruit can be kept for a week. For longer term storage, squash can be canned, pickled or frozen. Winter squash are left on the vine until mature and the outer skin is hard – mature squash will be difficult ot scratch with a finger nail. Winter squash may be consumed right after harvest or stored for 2 to 6 months depending on variety. For longest storage the fruit should be cured in a warm dry location for a week or 2 and then stored in cool dark conditions. Winter squash can also be canned and frozen.
Brazos Valley Gardener, Orchardist, Apiarist and Instructor