Squash is a popular and nutritious vegetable and organic, GMO-free plants are easy to grow in almost any vegetable garden. There are a number of different types used as either summer or winter vegetables, so to avoid disappointment be sure to choose the right type for your gardening and cooking needs.
Gardening With Summer Squash
These plants produce vegetables that are picked young and cooked fresh. Zucchini (or Courgette) are well-known plants which come in various forms, including yellow-skinned, regular green and round. All of them can be used in stir-fries, stews and vegetable chilli or raw in salads. They are best picked as the flower fades, as they add water while they mature, but lose flavor and nutrition. These squash are low in calories and make light meals suitable for hot weather.
In Mediterranean cuisine they are often sliced along their length and grilled after rubbing with a clove of garlic. They are then served cold with olive-oil and lemon-juice. As well, the male flowers are delicious battered and fried.
Pattypan squash (or scallopini) are beautiful round summer squash with ‘pie-crust’ edges that should be picked when they measure only two or three inches across. They come in white, green or yellow and are delicious steamed whole, or sliced, breaded and quickly fried. If they become larger they can be opened and the flesh cooked with garlic and put back to use the rind as a decorative container.
Gardening With Winter Squash
These winter vegetables come in many varieties, from Butternut to Blue Hubbard and Vegetable Spaghetti. Pumpkins are also a type of Winter Squash. Some are hybrids between the several species that make up this group.
Unlike their summer cousins these squash are grown until they mature and the seeds inside are ripe. Harvest from the vegetable garden just before hard frost is due and leave a couple of inches of stem attached. Most can be stored for months in a cool, dry place so they are an excellent winter vegetable as they provide food long after the vegetable garden has been put to bed.
Highly nutritious, they are full of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, iron and beta carotene. They can be turned into soups, roasted in chunks, added to stews or pureed and served as a side-dish.
Squash need lots of nutrients, so dig large holes in your vegetable garden and add a bucket or two of compost made from last years’ gardening. Mound up the earth over the top and space these hills three feet apart for summer squash and six feet or more apart for winter squash. Plant two or three seeds at the top of the mound about a week before the last frost date and cover with a large glass jar. When the seeds emerge remove the weaker ones and use the jar to protect the plant at night until night temperatures are above 50o. They can also be started indoors and planted into the vegetable garden when the soil has warmed. Keep the plants well-watered.
For a small garden two plants of each variety may be enough for a steady harvest. You will notice that some flowers have a thin stalk and others a thick one. The thin ones are male flowers and these can be picked and cooked. Male flowers are produced first and when female flowers start to appear hand-pollination may be a good idea to maximize your yield.