Growing and Harvesting Squash
If you sowed winter squash seeds during the spring season, you probably have begun, or will shortly, harvesting the nutrient dense rewards of your labor. When it comes to harvesting your different winter squash varieties, the rule of thumb is to wait for the skin to harden before removing from the vine. They should be full color, as well. If you do not plan on using your squash soon after harvesting, make sure you keep 2 inches of the stem to help preserve your squash. Typical time frames from seed to harvest are as follows:
Acorn: 70-90 days
Buttercup: 88-100 days
Butternut: 75 days for Early Butternut; 85-120 days for all others
Hubbard: 100-120 days
Spaghetti: 90-110 days
Sweet Potato: 90-105 days
Turban: 85-110 days
If you missed this growing season, do not miss the opportunity to plant squash next year. Follow these simple guidelines to grow your own comfort food:
First, make sure you enough space to grow these low spreading vines. They can sprawl over 15 feet of area. If space is limited, you can train them to grow up a trellis (see our Watermelon Trellis blog). Once you locate your planting location, amend or till the soil so, at least, the top foot is rich in organic matter. You will then want to build small mounds that are about 6 to 12 inches tall and 20 inches across. These mounds should be at least 5 feet apart. Once you create your hills, sow 5 squash seeds 2 inches deep, with each seed placed 3 inches away from the next one. After you spot the first true leaves, thin out to your 2 strongest plants.
Squash is a heavy feeder on both nutrients and water. Immediately after you sow in your seeds, water the soil with Vf-11 through a hose end sprayer (rate 1:128), or mix up 1oz VF-11 to 1 gallon of water and feed the soil. Continue feeding your plants with this ratio every week. You will want to make sure your plants are getting enough water in between these feedings. Always make sure your soil is holding moisture. You can check this buy pressing your finger down into the soil about 1 to 2 inches deep.
***Keep in mind squash plants love the sun. Make sure they are not planted in the shade of taller plants and trees.
Once you have your vitamin-rich squash in hand, make it the star of your meal.
Winter Squash Recipes We Love
Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese sauce
1 large spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise with seeds removed
6 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 lb. thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
1 1/2 lbs. of ground sirloin (ideally grass fed)
1 carrot, peeled and diced small
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 4000F
Place the spaghetti squash halves, flesh side up, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. of EVOO, salt and pepper. Turn the squash over and roast for about 55 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Once cooked, use a fork to scrape and separate the spaghetti looking strands. Drizzle with 2 more Tbsp. of EVOO and salt and pepper.
While the squash is roasting, place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 Tbsp. of EVOO. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the sirloin to the pan and cook until browned, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic to the pan and cook until the veggies are tender, about 5 minutes.
Season everything with salt and pepper, and then add the tomato paste, cooking it until golden brown and aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the red wine and beef stock. Cook the sauce until thickened and slightly reduced, around 5 minutes.
To serve, ladle the meat sauce on top of each squash half and garnish with basil and parsley.
Butternut Squash Curry
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. fresh chopped ginger
1\2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. cumin
25 oz. (about) of diced tomatoes in juice
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed (you can crush them yourself)
2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
1.5 cup plain yogurt
1 cup water
About 5 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb. of ground turkey
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 sliced avocado (optional)
Basmati rice, for serving
Put the vegetable oil in an x-large skillet, along with the turkey, onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon. Cook until the turkey is browned and onions are translucent.
Add the tomatoes, turmeric, cayenne, fennel seeds, black pepper and salt. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, then add the yogurt and water, stirring constantly. Now add the butternut squash. Let mixture cook for 15 minutes (until the squash is cooked but still firm) and serve with chopped cilantro and avocado over Basmati rice.
Sources: www.rachelrayshow.com, www.cowgirlchef.com, www.lickmyspoon.com, www.healthyfood4life.wordpress.com, www.growfruitandveg.co.uk