Squash are versatile, easy to grow in the garden and nutritious. What could be better?
When we think of glamorous and sophisticated foods – does squash really come to mind? I think not! Even the word “squash” lacks culture and and elegance. “Squash” just sounds too much like “squish” or “mush”, doesn’t it?
But – here in my part of the world (Southern Ontario, Canada), squash is available year round. It is the most versatile of comfort foods – and can be used in side dishes, main courses, soups, salads or even desserts.
Winter squash is not in season here, having been harvested locally in the fall months – but it can be stored at room temperature for the longest time. Winter squash refers to the fruit of butternut, spaghetti, acorn, delicata, pumpkin and hubbard squash plants. (Yes – squash is a fruit, not a vegetable – because it contains seeds). It is categorized as “winter” squash, because it has a late fall harvest and has a long winter shelf life – due to it’s hard outer rind. Summer squash – including zucchini and yellow squash – are harvested earlier – when the skin and fruit are not fully mature – so that the rind is edible.
When I cook a winter squash of any sort, I remove the seeds, wash and dry them and save them for my garden. This makes squash a bonus plant for me!
Planting Winter Squash Seeds
Just before spring, (April 22- May 6) I throw my mix of seeds into a flower pot or seed starter tray. The seeds sprout easily indoors – BUT – they do not always transplant well into the garden. I plant quite a few seeds, so losing some of the plants to fussy transplanting is OK with me. One plant may result in 2 squash – or perhaps as many as 10. How many squash do I need over a long winter anyway?
Winter squash have a long, slow growing period – from 80 to 110 days – and so I need to plant them at the right time – or start them indoors and risk the fussy transplanting in order to get them to maturity before our first frost in the fall!
When the risk of frost has passed, (May 27) I plant the seedlings in my garden and plant a few more seeds directly in the ground. (The Farmers’ Almanac has a guide to planting dates by gardening zone here.) The greatest problem with squash plants is that they take up a lot of space! One plant can have vines of 10 to 12 feet in length – and the leaves are quite wide – typically around 10 inches in my yard!
I place them here and there –
a few in my rockery,
a few by the fence, a few among the flowers.
Squash Plants Take a Lot of Space
As they are a bonus plant to me, and they take up a lot of space, I don’t dedicate a specific part of the garden to them. Squash create long thick vines with tentacles and do love to climb. The big orange flowers become the fruit.
Once they start to climb and produce the heavy squash, it’s hard to move the vines to cut the lawn, as the vines tend to snap and the squash fall off. If I plant them in a dedicated vegetable garden or on the lawn, the big leaves cover my other veggies, or we might move the vines to mow the grass, causing the vines to break – and that is always a shame.
Last year I planted acorn and spaghetti squash from the seeds of squash we ate in the winter. So far this winter, I have saved butternut squash and even more spaghetti squash seeds from our produce.
I often plant pumpkins directly in the ground – but in the past few years our aggressive neighbourhood squirrels have been stealing the seeds. I do love it when pumpkins sprout in my front garden as a ready fall garden decoration.
To cook squash, I cut the squash in half (that’s the hardest part), scoop out the seeds (and save them of course).
For spaghetti squash, I turn the squash cut side down in one inch of water in a large pyrex dish. I cook for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Then I scoop out the insides with a fork (that’s the fun part) and serve with butter and salt and pepper.
For acorn or butternut squash, I like to roast them face up a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Generally I serve with butter and more salt and pepper, but I may add brown sugar and butter and mash if the squash is a bit bitter in taste.
What could be easier? OH – and squash is good for us! Squash are a good source of fiber, protein, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium.
The seeds are “free”, and squash is easy to grow, easy to cook, versatile and good for us too! Enjoying spaghetti squash with dinner tonight and saving the seeds for my garden – reminds me that even though it’s a very cold and snowy winter day – spring is coming soon. I can’t wait!
Next up – an easy recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.
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5 thoughts on “Winter Squash”
So tasty, and so very good for you too!
Agreed! It’s good to have some nice orange vegetables in the mix!
Orange veggies always make me feel healthier just looking at them!
Makes me hungry!