By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
Squash is such a flexible vegetable, not only from a culinary aspect but also from a gardening perspective.
From the culinary side, it can be grilled, baked, steamed, sautéed, and boiled.
In the garden, it can be planted as soon as the local frost-free date has passed and can continue to produce all the way to late fall to early winter.
But not all squashes are the same. Below is a general description of the two types of squashes you may want to plant for an extended season of squash delight.
Summer squash is a one that produces very prolifically from early summer until it is killed by a frost. Well-known varieties that fall into this category include yellow and green zucchini, crookneck, straight, and scalloped.
They are directly seeded in the ground or container after ones local frost-free date. Once planted, you can begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor as soon as 50 days in some cases, while most varieties require 60 to 70 days before the fruit has matured.
Since they are such prolific producers, one may want to control their crop’s yield. This is easily done by picking the blooms off the plant. But instead of wasting these blooms, why not cook them up. They can easily be used in stir-fries, sautés, and even stuffed and fried.
Winter squash is the other type of squash. It is not as prolific as the summer squash variety and tastes better if left on the vine until the vine has died. But if you cannot wait, you can pick them when they are young and steam them up into a wonderful side-dish.
This type of squash includes the pumpkin, turban, spaghetti, banana, hubbard, delicious, acorn, and butternut. Depending on the variety, the squash can take between 75 to 120 days to mature. Once picked, they can be stored in a cool environment for winter use.
To prevent overplanting, only plant two plants of summer squash and two plants of winter squash for a family of four, this will give enough seasonal enjoyment without waste. In doing so, if you follow this prescribed planting procedure, do not save your seeds from the fruits. Squash is a notorious cross-pollinator and the seeds harvested will be contaminated with other squash genetics.
So until we blog again, squash in my family is known as the garden giver. If you have excess squash, as many of us do, do not hesitate to share your blessing of a plentiful garden with the rest of the world.