Planting Plump Pumpkins…and Other Squash
Squash are one of my favorite vegetables. They’re so versatile! You can easily turn them into Gluten Free pasta, a sweet pie, yummy kabobs with onions and so many more!
There is a large variety of squash. Finding the right one can be a challenge. Here is a quick “cheat sheet” to finding the perfect one for you.
This small acorn-shaped squash is loaded with fiber. I use this as a vessel for fillings. Cut it in half, roast it, then fill it with apples, raisins, chestnuts, or create your own unique yummy recipe.
The most common squash used in Fall and Winter. Its skin is thin and easy to peel with a pairing knife. This squash is dense and creamy, allowing it to be used in savory and sweet recipes. Substitute butternut for pumpkin in pies to create a new and lovable recipe.
Similar to butternut squash…or a sweet potato. The skin is totally edible and has a sweet flavor.
One of the largest varieties, the skin can range from bright orange to a blue color. The skin is edible, however, try mashing it or pureeing it before consumption, as it is very mealy.
This Japanese squash is newer to the USmarket, but has quickly become a favorite and household staple. Kabocha are drier and denser than most squash, but are easily roasted.
My all-time favorite squash – for many reasons – can be used in savory or sweet dishes. A personal favorite of mine is pumpkin ravioli. Fill ravioli pasta with pureed pumpkin, Gouda cheese, and salt for a sweet and savory dish. Pumpkins can be on the sweet side, especially the skin. You can use the skin in dessert recipes, but I omit the skin when cooking pumpkin for a savory recipe. The flavor is there, but the sweetness is not.
This squash is easy to use for….SPAGHETTI! When cooked, the inside separates from the skin, looking much like spaghetti noodles. Use in place of noodles for a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and gluten-free option.
When planting winter squash, it is important to remember when to plant. Typically right after the last frost (March) is the best time. Planting seeds this early ensures plenty of time for the fruit to ripen. On average, it takes winter squash 80-120 days to mature after seeds are planted. If you would plant seeds now, they would be ready for picking between October 9th and the first week of November. It is also important to look at zones when planting – simply go to the USDA website to find the zoning map. This will give you a better indication of when to plant in your area and when to expect the first and last frost of the year. Stop planting seeds fourteen weeks before the first expected frost (November).
It is okay for winter squash to be ripening even after the first frost. Their outer “shell” protects the fruit within from harsh temperatures.
When harvesting, simply knock on the outside – a mature squash will sound hollow. Remember to cut the squash from the vine, rather than yanking or pulling it off. Cutting allows the plant to re-grow from that vine. Pulling can damage the vine and the plant, altogether.
Remember to keep winter squash in a cool, dry place when storing. Winter squash can be stored for months if stored properly! Avoid moist or damp locations, as the dampness will rot the squash from the outside.