Winter squash less popular but worth effort

Carnival squash

Most gardeners who have planted edibles have tried their hand at growing squash. We usually think of a garden full of yellow squash and zucchini squash that grow so easily for us in the summertime. But how many of us have tried our hand at growing winter squash?

Growing winter squash is far less common, but maybe you would like to give it a try. It’s simple. And winter squash is some of the best eatin’ that you can have. They are the tastiest of all garden veggies and some of the most nutritious. And growing winter squash is a whole lot more than just growing pumpkins. Such variety is available!

It might be good idea to lay out the differences between summer and winter squash. Summer squash are the types of vegetables that you can eat when their skin is immature and tender. They don’t even require cooking. Some avant-garde restaurants are now shredding raw squash into salads or offering them raw and cut into sticks instead of chips. The most common summer squashes are zucchini, yellow crookneck, straight neck and patty pan.

Winter squash are eaten when they are mature and have hard exteriors. We usually bake winter squash to emphasize attributes of their typically hard flesh, fine-grained texture and mild flavor. Winter squash can usually be stored for a couple to as much as six months while summer squash have a short shelf life. Winter squash also tend to have very large vines, which means that they take up a lot of space in the garden. Winter squash are annual plants but take 3-5 months to mature. Some of the common types of winter squash for Texas are Acorn, Banana, Hubbard, Butternut, Buttercup, Delicata, Turban squash, Spaghetti, Cushaw, Calabaza and pumpkins.

Skip Richter of Texas Gardener gives a simple primer on the various winter squash. Acorn squash is a familiar vegetable to most Texas gardeners. You can find it in dark-green, creamy-white — called Cream of the Crop — and the colorful green, yellow and orange Carnival varieties. Butternut squash is also referred to as “Kabocha,” which is the Japanese word for “squash.” He notes the numerous new varieties of Buttercup squash, which you can look for in your garden center: Honey Delight, Sweet Mama and Black Forest. Each fruit is about 5 pounds and their colors are beautiful dark greens and oranges.

“Delicata” (Cucurbita pepo) is known as sweet potato squash. It is perfect for stuffing and baking. Spaghetti squash is a novel option, which has gotten very popular in the last few years. They are easily split, baked and scooped out to be used as a pasta substitute. Calabaza is also called Cuban Squash. It can grow to humongous sizes if left on the vine and is also known for its super long storage life.

Winter squash seeds need to go about 1/2 inch into the soil hill in a sunny location. Follow directions on seed packets to make sure you allow enough space for your particular type of squash. When the seeds have two true leaves, thin them out. You need to add a fertilizer like 15-5-10 before you plant and again in about a month. Most gardeners plant their squash in late summer or early fall so that they are ready to pick and enjoy just in time for the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!


Joette Reger can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”