The won­ders of win­ter squash

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Contents - By Ta­nia Mof­fat

It’s a shame that more peo­ple don’t plant win­ter squash. They pro­duce boun­ti­ful crops that can pro­vide us healthy gar­den fruit far into the win­ter months. Win­ter squashes are part of the genus Cu­cur­bita, a fam­ily of herba­ceous vines in the gourd, squash and pump­kin fam­ily. There are sev­eral va­ri­eties avail­able to grow, and each has its at­tributes for the epi­cu­ri­ous, but all make for fab­u­lous and hearty meals.

Why don’t peo­ple plant squash? Of­ten it’s be­cause they lack the room in their gar­dens, have planted too many squash plants in years past or have no idea what to do with these healthy fruits. The se­cret is to grow them in mod­er­a­tion (one plant should do a fam­ily), and al­low them to har­den off prop­erly which will al­low you to keep them for sev­eral months (two to six) in the pantry.

Most squashes have a mild sweet or nutty flavour which makes them easy to in­cor­po­rate in all kinds of dishes but best of all they are nat­u­rally low in fat and calo­ries. Most are rich in sev­eral vi­ta­mins and min­er­als such as vi­ta­min A, B6, C, mag­ne­sium and potas­sium.

Tips for grow­ing squash

The beauty with squash is that you can grow them eas­ily from seed. Put two or three seeds in a low mounded seed hole. Once seedlings de­velop, se­lect the strong­est and thin out the rest. Plants pre­fer full sun­light and well-drained soil but will tol­er­ate light shade.

If you lack space, try grow­ing one of the bush va­ri­eties ver­sus the vin­ing ones. One ex­am­ple of a bush va­ri­ety is ‘Gold Nugget’ but­ter­cup squash. If you do have space, many of the best tast­ing va­ri­eties of squash are vin­ing but they re­quire a four-by-six-foot space to grow. To avoid hav­ing it take over your gar­den, con­tin­u­ously cut back the vines as they reach out­wards, mak­ing sure to keep those that are pro­duc­ing fruit. Re­move any mis­shapen fruit or fruit that has started to rot to main­tain the health of your plant. Trim­ming will al­low the fruit that is grow­ing to de­velop more fully.

Win­ter squash de­vel­ops a deeper skin colour as it ma­tures. The skin will get harder and should re­sist punc­tur- ing by fin­ger­nails when ripe. Win­ter squash are har­vested when they are fully ma­ture, un­like sum­mer squash va­ri­eties. Squash will be one of the last crops har­vested in the fall when the cold weather sets in. They should be cut from the vines with their stems at­tached. If the stems do come off, use these fruits first as they will be prone to rot­ting sooner than the oth­ers.

You should cure your win­ter squash and pump­kins to har­den their shells com­pletely be­fore stor­ing them. Cur­ing is quite easy to do. Place squash in a warm area for a week or two at 24 C to 29 C, or put them in a root cel­lar with a small por­ta­ble fan blow­ing di­rectly on them 24 hours a day for a week to help har­den off the skins. Once cured, squash are best kept in a cool, dry and dark spot with low hu­mid­ity. Check them reg­u­larly for signs of mold or soft­en­ing and re­move the ones that are start­ing to turn. You can sal­vage those by cut­ting the skin and soft parts off, blanch­ing and freez­ing the in­side flesh.

Cook­ing squash

There are many fancy recipes on the In­ter­net that will pro­vide you with a di­verse range of uses for your win­ter squash, how­ever, some­times sim­ple is best.

Smaller squashes can be cut in half, seeded and baked in their skins. Add but­ter and some brown sugar to the cen­tre and en­joy eat­ing it right out of the shell. You can also try us­ing spices such as cin­na­mon or nut­meg and sub­sti­tute honey or maple syrup for sugar.

Larger squashes are best peeled, cubed and steamed or baked. They can be frozen in cubes or mashed, and used in a va­ri­ety of recipes. Squash is ex­cel­lent in pies, soups, cook­ies and bak­ing.

Spaghetti squash can be baked whole or seeded and cut in half. Once the skin is fork ten­der, re­move and cool the squash slightly. Re­move any seeds and be­gin to pull away the flesh with a fork, fluff­ing it on a plate. You can use it as a sub­sti­tute for pasta, or just add some parme­san, but­ter and salt and en­joy.

9 types of tasty win­ter squash Acorn: Dark green or white skin cov­ers this acorn-shaped and ribbed squash. Its pale yel­low flesh is mildly flavoured. Acorn is a smaller win­ter squash that should be eaten be­fore it turns or­ange in colour which will make it more fi­brous.

Del­i­cata: Del­i­cata is a thin-skinned ob­long green and yel­low striped squash. Its flesh is pale yel­low and it re­sem­bles sum­mer squash more than win­ter va­ri­eties. The del­i­cata flesh is creamy and soft, and the skin can be eaten, how­ever, as the skin is thin­ner it is more sus­cep­ti­ble to rot.

Sweet Dumpling Squash: This small squash has a whitish-yel­low and green exterior. It is large enough to serve one per­son and has a sweet flavour and ed­i­ble skin. It’s unique colour­ing also make it a lovely fall or­na­ment, just be sure to eat it after.

Spaghetti: This is a mild tast­ing, yel­low, stringy fleshed squash that is a per­fect sub­sti­tute for pasta. While it may look like ev­ery other squash raw, once cooked the flesh breaks into string like fibers sim­i­lar to spaghetti. Fruits are ob­long and can be white, tan-coloured, yel­low or or­ange.

Tur­ban: These are true beau­ties of the squash world and named after their tur­ban-like shape with a but­ton on the end. A colour­ful squash with mot­tled colours of green, or­ange and white, tur­ban squash makes a great fall dec­o­ra­tion. It has mildly flavoured flesh that is adapt­able to any squash recipe. The shell makes for an at­trac­tive bowl to serve fall soups or other fall de­lights. Most com­mon va­ri­eties are “Turk’s tur­ban” or “French tur­ban.”

Hub­bard: Hub­bards are large, bumpy, oval-shaped squash, the most com­mon is the blue hub­bard which is an odd shade of gray-blue. Some va­ri­eties can get quite large. The sweet tast­ing flesh is dry yel­low or or­ange.

Kuri: This red hub­bard has a sim­i­lar lop­sided look as all hub­bard's do. It re­sem­bles a kabocha, but the cir­cu­lar bot­tom will con­firm it is a hub­bard, it may even de­velop a ridge, or tur­ban, around a more no­tice­able bump.

Kabocha: “But­ter­cup” is one of the most pop­u­lar va­ri­eties of kabocha right now and is read­ily avail­able in gro­cery stores. It is eas­ily rec­og­niz­able from its squat green shape. The in­side is sweet and dry with a nutty flavour; it is ex­cel­lent for cook­ing. Red kabocha squash is sweeter than its green coun­ter­part and has faint white stripes over its deep red­dish-or­ange flesh.

But­ter­nut: This bot­tle-shaped, tan­coloured squash is prob­a­bly one of the most rec­og­nized of the win­ter squash. It has a sweet flavour and is used in many recipes.

Cushaw squash: Also known as the win­ter crook­neck squash due to its curved top, it is eas­ily sub­sti­tuted into any squash recipe.

Acorn squash.

Red Kuri squash.

Sweet Dumpling Squash.

Blue hub­bard squash.

Del­i­cata squash.

But­ter­nut squash.

Tur­ban squash.

Spaghetti squash.

Cushaw Squash.

Kabocha squash.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.