As the gardening season moves ever onward, the winter squashes are now maturing and I am harvesting them when they seem ready, or when the vines die down. This year I am experimenting with several new (to me) varieties, as well as growing my old favorites like Gold Nugget, Cornell’s Bush Delicata, Early Butternut and Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck (aka neck pumpkin).
The first three have all been harvested, and it was a pretty good year for all. The Gold Nuggets gave us 17 squash from 3 plants, and averaged right at a pound each. These keep fairly well, so we haven’t tried any of them yet. The Early Butternut were a little bigger, averaging 20 ounces each, and I harvested 5 from the single plant. The Bush Delicata was the winner in the yield department of these 3 varieties, producing 15 squash on 3 plants and averaging 21 ounces each. I baked a couple of these last week, and it was nice to have a taste of homegrown winter squash again.
One of the varieties I grew for the first time is Zeppelin Delicata. Zeppelin is a vining type that is supposed to produce squash that get from one to two pounds each, according to various seed companies. I got my seed from Fedco, who state the fruits get one pound each. My two plants vined all over the place, and I have harvested 11 fruits so far that average 10 ounces each. The largest ones are nice sized, weighing about a pound each, but there are quite a few runts that weight 6 or 7 ounces. We haven’t tasted these yet, but unless the flavor is much improved from the Bush Delicata I don’t think I will be growing this one again. In the below photo, that’s the Bush Delicata on the left and Zeppelin on the right.
Another first-timer here is Boston Marrow. My one vine gave me exactly one squash. But oh what a squash it is! Normally I take a Tubtrug to the garden to haul in a bucketful of squash at once, but this one I had to carry all by itself. It weighed in at 16.5 pounds, and while it is the biggest squash I have harvested this year, this heirloom variety can get up to 25 pounds each. I plan on using this one for baking and soups, so I will let it sit for a bit before I cook it up. If it tastes as good as it is supposed to taste, it will be back next year. It was difficult to get a good photo of it on the counter, but the one below has an apple and a peach next to it for scale, plus my hand. The color of the skin is a deep orange color, and the rind is thick and hard.
In past years I have had trouble with mold on some of my stored squashes. So this year I am wiping the outside down with a weak bleach solution before they go into storage. Several extension publications detail how to do this, including this one from Clemson University called: Pumpkins & Winter Squash. I made up a solution using 4 tsp bleach to a gallon of cool water. We will wash the skin of the squashes before cooking. I’m normally not a fan of dousing my homegrown, chemical free veggies with something like chlorine bleach, but in this case it makes sense to me. It’s just a slightly stronger solution than our already chlorinated water. And we use a weak bleach solution to sanitize our food preparation surfaces at the kitchen where I volunteer – which is approved and mandated by the health department. Hopefully this will reduce the mold and spore counts on the squash and help keep the losses down.
Out of the the squash department, but still in the Cucurbit family, we got the first Burpee’s Ambrosia cantaloupe last week. This one weighed a little over four pounds, which is a nice sized melon for this one, though they can get a bit bigger. My father loved this variety of cantaloupe, and since he grew up eating the famed Posey County melons (most of which actually come from Gibson county) that is saying something. After trialing many different varieties over the years, Ambrosia is my favorite cantaloupe, though one called Sugar Queen is pretty tasty also. Neither of these is likely to show up at farmer’s markets or other outlets since they do not ship or travel well. Fortunately, this one only had to travel from the garden to the kitchen, and then on to the plate!
Back in the squash department (this time the summer closeout aisle) I still have three of the summer squash plants fruiting. The rest are done for. The pace of harvest has slowed down considerably, which is not a bad thing. The Striata d’Italia zucchini is making a squash every couple of days. And the crookneck Gentry and straightneck Enterprise are seemingly getting a second wind. Powdery mildew is on all the leaves now, and I doubt they will go on much longer. Still, we’ve had summer squash for two solid months now, and the plants have given us over 125 pounds of fruit. We’ve given a lot of it away, which is a part of my ‘clearance’ strategy!
And speaking of clearing, I finally cleared the kitchen counter of tomatoes on Saturday, when I made a big batch of marinara sauce for the freezer. It didn’t last long though, since Sunday morning I hauled in another 16 pounds of paste tomatoes alone. So now they are laid out all over the counter, and in a box on the floor. We will be dealing with them in the next few days.
To see what other gardeners are hauling in or clearing out, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, where Daphne hosts the Harvest Monday series. I’ll be back soon with more updates on what’s happening here at HA!