Saturday, August 15, 2009

Growing Winter Squash & Recipes

Squash is one of my favourite vegetables from the garden. This also includes the sweet pumpkins, which are in the same family. It is so versatile and so good for you! It can be boiled, baked, sliced for the BBQ, grilled, baked in a pie for dessert and made into delicious soup. It can also be eaten with lots of real butter and a drop of maple syrup for a side vegetable dish.

I took an interest in the various different types of squash this year and planted five different kinds of winter squash. Having grown only hubbard, acorn and buttercup in the past, I was astounded at all the types of winter squash available out there. Some have long growing seasons and may not do well up here, but most of them look like they will produce well enough if started early indoors and given lots of hot, sunny weather. Unfortunately, we didn't get the hot, sunny weather this year, but I think we will have plenty of squash, nonetheless.

In the actual vegetable garden, I planted hubbard, ambercup (a golden buttercup type), butternut and nutty delicata. I have never grown the nutty delica squash before, but I thought it sounded good. I love nuts and this is suppose to have a "nutty" flavour. It is a relatively new Japanese ebisu hybrid type. I have not previously grown butternut, either, although I have eaten it and seen it in the stores.

I planted acorn squash in the back field on the fence. Only two of those came up but I grew a very large acorn squash plant in the front flowerbed. It was an accidental dropping of the seed in the wrong place, but that bed was new and needed some greenery anyway, so I left it there.

It took over a large part and is producing extremely well, much better than the same seed grown on the back fence. I think that is due to the extra chicken manure dug into the flower beds. It looked nice there too with the large golden blossoms and huge green leaves. I may consider doing that again next year. Is that what is referred to as a "Potager Garden" - veggetables mixed in with the flowers? I like it. It had four little squash on it until yesterday. I accidentally left the gate open and the chickens got into the front yard. They ate three of the little squash. I managed to cover the other one up with a bucket for the rest of the evening. They had not found it yet. The vegetable garden has a fence around it to keep out the groundhogs that live under the garage, so the chickens cannot get in there.

In my search for squash types, I found one in particular that interested me. It was the Hopi pale gray winter squash. I came across a reference to it as being an especially good "keeper". These squash are an heirloom variety originally grown by the Hopi indians but have almost dissappeared. When I tried to find a source, I was dissappointed. The Hopi squash are very difficult to acquire. I did manage to get some seeds, in a trade from this year, 2009, for both the Hopi pale gray and the Hopi black squash, to grow for next year. Since they are from more southern regions I will start them very early next spring on a heating source. I am excited about growing these next year to test for the perfect squash and as a source of rare seed.

All of my winter squash plants have small squash growing on them, except for the butternut. The first female butternut flower opened this morning. I hand pollinated it. Even the long seasoned hubbard has small squash growing. We have had exceptionally cool weather this year. I don't know why there is a difference.

Perhaps the butternut need more heat? They are all in the same bed and have received the same treatment. I planted the butternut because I read that they were good producers, making a lot of squash on one plant. We will see how it goes...

I am looking for the perfect squash. One that is not stringy, keeps all year and has a fabulous, sweet and nutty taste. Is there such a thing?

Squash like to be grown in very light, loose soil so the roots are well aerated. They are nutrient hogs and like a lot of water, without being waterlogged (see previous sentence). I dug chicken manure into the hills where I planted the squash and I have occasionally fed them with organic commerical transplant fertilizer with a high phosphorus content, that I bought at a garage sale. Avoid using a high nitrogen fertilizer as this causes lots of leaves and few squash.

Squash, pumpkins and gourds are all from the same general family and all depend on bees for their pollination, so a small and dwindling bee population causes a poor harvest. (What will we do when there are no more bees?? ) Last year I had a lot of flowers and very few squash, signalling poor pollination. I am hand pollinating my squash this year and it has made a difference. All of the female flowers that opened were hand pollinated and are now growing small squash. This is exicing and so rewarding! I did that myself! It can be frustrating when the male flowers are plentiful and the female flowers have not opened yet.

The male flowers open first in the center of the vine. The female flowers are located further along the central vine and on the lateral branches. The male flowers are on taller stalks while the female flowers sit tighter against the branch on a little ball which, if pollinated, will be the growing squash.

To pollinate the female flowers you will need to use a small paintbrush. Just rub the paintbrush against the pollen in the male flower and then paint the pollen onto the center of the female flower. You can also pick the male flower, remove all but the pollen sitck and rub it against the center of the female flower. I prefer to use a paintbrush and leave the male flower growing where it is, to be used again later unless there are plenty of open male flowers.

There are many rare and delicious winter squash out there, yet to be discovered. Some are heirloom varieties that have been grown for centures in North America and have just slowly been replaced with the modern hybrids and genetically modified versions. One of the main reasons for that is the patenting of hybrid and genetically modified (GM) seed. Seeds from vegetables grown from patented seed cannot legally be saved by the grower for the following year. The farmer legally must repurchase these seeds each spring. Natural and heirloom seeds cannot be patented and so, there is no money in selling them. Large seed companies, such as Monsanto, sell only genetically modified and patented seed. The old fashioned heirloom varieties are slowing dissappearing. The gene pool is shrinking and we are losing valuable material. Not necessarily inferior material either!

We really enjoyed the little acorn squash last year, baked with maple syrup, raisins and dried cranberries and I know that hubbard and buttercup both make excellent pies. Some softer skinned buttercup varieties of squash do not keep very long, however, so they need to be cooked and frozen shortly after harvesting. I have read that the delica squash are not good keepers, either, so we will cook and freeze those when they are ready.

I have collected a selection of squash recipes that we have found to be delicious and have made many times. Winter squash and sweet pumpkin are interchangeable in any recipe, since they are the same thing. Pumpkin and squash are both members of the gourd family. No canned pumpkin will ever taste as good as the homegrown vegetable.

All spices are dried and ground. If you wish to use fresh, you will need to research the amount.


Squash Pie

1 1/2 cup squash,cooked, mashed and unseasoned
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
2 teaspoon all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add squash. Beat eggs in another bowl and add milk to eggs, then add to squash mixture. Pour into an unbaked pastry lined pan. Bake at 350F until firm in center, about 1 hour

Squash Loaf

3 cups sugar
4 eggs beaten
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2/3 cup water
3 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice or 1/2 tsp mace
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/2 cup squash, cooked, mashed and unseasoned
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 350F, grease 3 loaf pans. Mix sugar, oil and eggs. Add squash. Sift together all dry ingredients and add to squash mixture. Add water and pour into pans. Bake 1 hour.

Squash Soup

2 pounds uncooked squash
1.5 pints of stock, chicken or vegetable (can be made with bouillon)
Onion: 1 medium, diced Garlic: 1 crushed clove
Cream to add before serving, amount is optional
Salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon: (optional)

In a large saucepan, slice and saute the garlic and onion in oil or butter until tender. Add squash, stock, nutmeg or cinnamon, salt and pepper. Boil and cook for 25 mins until squash is tender. Puree mixture with a blender until smooth and return to saucepan. Before serving, add cream and gently heat. Do not boil.

*Stock amount can be changed, depending on how thick or thin you want your soup.

**Add thick applesauce for a special taste treat.


Squash Muffins

1 cup squash, cooked and mashed
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon mace

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease muffin tin or use papers. Mix together squash, eggs, oil and corn syrup in large bowl. Stir until well mixed. Stir all other dry ingredients together in smaller bowl. Add dry ingredients to squash mixture. Fill greased tins to the top. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 mins until lightly brown on top.
* Very good with raisins added.

Add raisins to batter if desired.

Squash Dessert Squares

1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups squash, cooked, mashed and unseasoned
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease square pan. Beat together shortening, brown sugar and shite sugar unti light. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in squash. Combine dry ingredients and gradually stir into beaten mixture. Spread in greased pan. Bake for 30 mins. Cool in pan. Spread with orange icing (optional). Cut into bars.


The Japanese Redneck said...

We grew several varieties of winter squash one year. Couldn't eat all of it or give enough away. They made tons. Squash for days.

The hopi sounds interesting.


Providence Acres Farm said...

I am hoping for lots of each kind to give them all a good try. We will give a lot away, sell some and give some to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. We give them any eggs that we don't eat or sell too. I may not grow this much again, it was just a special interest this year.

Joyful said...

I love baking squash with a bit of pepper, butter and sometimes brown sugar. Yum. Your recipes look delicious...I must try the soup and muffins!

Janey said...

So what is the recipe for the baked squash with raisins, cranberries and syrup? It sounds wonderful! I have some pumpkins growing at a friends house, and he says there are a lot of little ones. We'll have lots to eat and/or decorate with, if the raccoons don't get them first.

Providence Acres Farm said...

Hi Ramone,

I have some extra Hopi pale gray and Hopi black seeds if you'd like to do a seed trade. LMK

Providence Acres Farm said...

Hi Joyful!

I love it just baked with butter, salt and a pinch of sugar too! Delicious! I can't wait for some to be ready so I can make some soup. They are getting there. I was out today, pruning them back even more. We are going to have a lot.

Hey Janey! Good to hear from you! (Janey is my sister ;-)

Cut them in half, clean out the inside, pour in a little maple syrup, real butter, dried cranberries and raisins. Maybe a pinch of salt also. Cover and bake until done. :-)

lol! You probably wanted more details, eh? Hmmmm...

I think I bake them at 350F. You can set them in a pan with a little water in the bottom and bake covered with foil or just sit on the over rack, covered with foil. It takes about 30-45 mins for a very little one, I think. I don't have this written down. When you can pierce it all over with a fork, its done.

I bake them for the freezer cut in half, turned up side down in a pan with some water and baked for about 45-55 mins until soft. Then just scrape out, cool and bag. (You scraped out the seeds when you first cut it in half.)

Anything to avoid peeling it! Some kinds, like the big hubbard, are so hard we can only cut them with the axe!