It seems to happen almost overnight at the end of summer. Suddenly, brightly colored pumpkins and exotic winter squashes make an appearance at the market and the fall has asserted its presence. Winter squash is a staple throughout the fall, winter, and early spring as it may be cured and stored for two to five months.
Squashes are generally categorized into two types by backyard gardeners. “Summer” squash types are fast maturing (fruit in ~50 days), have thin rinds that are usually eaten, cannot be stored for long periods (two weeks at best), and are generally picked when immature. “Winter” squash types are take longer to mature (~100 days to maturity) have thick rinds that generally need to be peeled, are picked when completely mature and can be stored for several months.
Swampy Acres Farm in Hampstead, NH posted some interesting facts about squash on their website including the fact that nearly the entire squash plant is edible. The leaves, tendrils, shoots, stems, flowers, seeds, and fruit can be eaten. Most varieties of winter squash have a tough outer skin is less desirable than the rich meat of the plant.
Winter squash is very low in calories and rich in antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, and beta carotene making it a healthy meal choice. It may also be prepared in a many ways and seasoned sweet or savory.
Know Your Squash
|Cucurbita Pepo||New England pie pumpkins, acorn, delicata||After harvest, keep in a warm dry place for a week to sweeten flavor, though these squashes also can be eaten immediately after harvest||1-2 months|
|Cucurbita Maxima||Kabocha, hubbard, kuri||After harvest, keep in a warm sunny location for 2 weeks||Up to 4 months|
|Cucurbita Moschata||Butternut, Long Island cheese pumpkins||After harvest, keep in a warm sunny location for 3-4 weeks.||Up to one year, though flavor diminishes considerably after 5 months|
Adapted from Hudson Valley Seed Library Garden Tip; visit www.seedlibrary.org for more.