Saturday, February 26, 2011

Squash Review

I have grown a lot of squash variations over the years, all in search of The Perfect Squash.

This is a review of all the types we have grown and my thought on the pros and cons of each, or the ones I can remember, anyway.

Most are cucurbita maxima. I have noted the ones that are not, in their description. There are four families of cucurbita squash/pumpkins. Maxima, moschata, pepo and mixta. I have never grown a mixta (cushaw) squash, so I can't give you any information about them. Squash varieties will cross within their family, only - but they will cross within their family, definitely, unless you take steps to prevent it. If you plan to save your own seed from year to year, you will need to prevent cross pollination. Hand pollinating is a great thing and will give you a much bigger harvest, but that alone will not prevent cross pollination.

When I say a squash is a good keeper, this depends on the conditions. We have an underground, old fashioned, stone cold cellar where the squash are kept. I sit them, not touching, on wooden skids to keep them off the damp stone shelves built into the wall of the cellar.

These are not in any particular order.

1) The Hopi black (left) is my first choice. You can read more about them in a previous post "The Perfect Squash" (also linked above).

2) Hopi pale gray - (picture right) produces lots of very large meaty fruits. They are a pale gray on the outside, but are also very pale on the inside too. I think the darker orange colour has more beta carrotene. I wasn't impressed with the pale colour. I will still continue to grow a few of these to keep the seed since they are so rare and are disappearing from our seed base.

3) Turk's Cap (also called "Turban") - these are a good size, although a little smaller than the first two. They have a small seed cavity with a lot of meat. The entire "turban" cap part is solid meat. They are sweet, not too stringy and good. They keep for a very long time, through Feb in our cold cellar. I will grow a few of these for decoration. They are brightly coloured and beautiful, especially mixed with the little gourds, plus you can eat them!

4) Hubbard - these are excellent, all around good squash. Excellent keeper, the best we have grown. Very large, orange, meaty fruits that keep in the right conditions until warmer spring weather. My only complaint is the extremely hard shell. You will need an axe or a thick knife and hammer set to cut one in half. Don't try to peel this one! You could poke holes in it and just bake the whole thing until the skin softens, than cut it, if you can fit it into your oven. These are very large!

5) "Upper ground sweet potato" squash - (c. moschata) was dissappointed in them, not much meat and pale in colour. They are huge fruits but all empty seed cavity inside, much like a Halloween pumpkin. They will grow in poor soil, sand, clay or rock where few other things will grow, so they are good if you have a spot like that and want to grow something productive there. Good keeper.

6) Acorn - (c. pepo) delicious little squash. Good size for baking stuffed, for 2-4 people. Good orange colour, sweet and not too stringy. Belongs to the c. pepo family so will cross with any zucchini around. Good keeper. Too small to process for freezer (the reason we don't grow them).

7) Japanese ebisu "nutty delica" - ok flavour. Too small to process for the freezer. Ok keeper.

8) Butternut - (c. moschata) Produced lots of fruit. Good orange colour and very meaty. Has a small seed cavity in the bulb end so entire neck is solid meat. Nice flavour but needs a long growing season. Good keeper. Might grow this one again, maybe.

9) Sweet mama - not that impressed with the flavour. Too small to process for the freezer. Not a lot of meat in each fruit. Ok keeper.

10) Buttercup - productive, meaty and less stringy. Good flavour, but not as good as several others. Very poor keeper.

11) Ambercup - Sweet, dark orange colour, good texture. Small, about the size of a large acorn squash. Good for baking with a meal. Too small for processing for freezer. Good keeper.

12) Spaghetti - (c. pepo) Excellent keeper. Not a standard winter squash. White flesh, can be used in place of pasta or cooked on it's own. Not used in place of orange winter squash in baking recipes. Our's are still good at mid Feb, although some seeds have begun to sprout inside the squash. Will cross with any zucchini, acorn squash, spaghetti squash and Halloween pumpkins.

I did plant jumbo pink banana squash and, although they sprouted, the plants didn't do much and just disappeared over the summer. I don't have any information about them. I have also planted others that didn't grow well and did not produce any fruit. I don't usually plant those again as I just don't have the time to baby the squash.

Now that we have found what we consider to be the best of the squash, we plan to stick to just those few and not continue to grow a large variety. It's a time and focus thing. We don't have much time during the growing season and we are already focusing our attention on as much as we can manage. That said, I do plan to grow a few "sweet dumpling" squash for the first time this year.

So far we have not had any problems with the squash borer. We did have an infestation of aphids on our squash and tomatoes a few years ago, causing them to grow curled vines but it did not seem to affect the fruit production. I have grown the squash in a different location every year. Perhaps that has something to do with it.
I enjoy growing squash! They take so little time and effort to grow and the plants are so beautiful, covering a large space with huge green leaves. Well worth growing in the garden!


Linda said...

The Turban Squash is one of my favorites. We have a local farmer not too far from where we live that grow these.

The Japanese Redneck said...

Wow, that's a lot of different squash.

I have some cheese squash I'm trying this year.