Not all squash are created equal but three stand out for me for their great ability to be stored. Each year I grow an abundance of squash. They are relatively easy to grow if you can get through the bug pressures.But some squash have a shorter shelf life than others. Yellow squash for most, is preferred fresh. They can have a bit of a shelf life in the fridge unwashed, but the fresher they are the happier my customers are.
But these 3 powerhouse squash can be picked and last for a lot longer, allowing you to stock your pantry with healthy home grown options.
You can on occasion get an edible pumpkin variety that stores well too. We have had good luck with Long Island Cheese pumpkins.
Good to know.
For storing, you should cure your squash (this encourages the moisture to dissipate). This just means letting it sit for 10 -
Keep the stem on for storage.
Butternut squash actually tastes better after storing (curing) for 2 months. This is because as the moisture leaves the squash, the sugars within it, intensify.
Spaghetti & Acorn squash flavour does not intensify and can be eaten right away after harvest.
I have always wiped the outside of my squash with a diluted bleach mixture. 2 tablespoons of bleach to a gallon of water. It is not harmful and helps ensure any mold properties are killed off. Keep in mind you do not eat the outside of your squash. And I never seem to lose a squash to mold.
When you store squash how long do they last?
Spaghetti Squash Recommended (3 months) tested by myself (6 months)
Acorn Squash Recommended (3 Months)
Butternut Squash Recommended and tested by myself (6 months)
Make sure to store them in a cool dark place inside your home. Move them periodically to check for the development of soft spots and to ideally shift their pressure points.
Also, very important, before eating your squash take a small taste test to ensure it is not bitter. NEVER eat bitter squash. Keep reading to learn more about toxic squash.
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So recently one of my customers spurred my curiosity on the subject of toxic squash. I had no idea that the risk of squash becoming toxic was a thing, but turns out, it is. There actually is not a great deal of information on the subject easily found online. But I am going to share with you what I have learned and the #1 rule you will need to know about preventing toxic squash poisoning.
First off for some background. It is important to understand that toxic squash can impact pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers, Butternut, Pumpkin, Zucchini, Gourds and Watermelon. Essentially anything in the Cucurbitaceae family which includes all squash.
How does this happen?
The Cucurbitaceae plant fruit, before human intervention naturally contained a chemical called cucurbitacin. This chemical in the wild was the plants natural defence system against animals that want to consume their squash. Humans modified the squash over time to create strains with low levels of cucurbitacin. (This is essentially an early form of genetic modification).
So how does the toxicity come back?
It is said that it can happen when members of the Cucurbitaceae cross pollinate with “wild” Cucurbitaceae. Now some research says it is also possible with cross pollination with other plants. But this is where the research gets very muddy. There are 3 very public cases of squash poisoning all of which occurred in Europe. A german fellow ate a stew with toxic squash and died and two french ladies ate toxic squash, lost their hair and became violently ill for a month. Now, how their squash became toxic I cannot confirm. Perhaps, wild unaltered squash or their squash was cross pollinated. I have yet to find anything that scientifically states how their squash became toxic.
Should I be worried about toxic squash?
In short, no, I think we need to think rationally here. There is only a small number of cases of illness tied to squash poisoning in the world. And only 3 widely known that had extreme results such as hair loss or death. Some researchers are stating these are the first known cases that were this serious. In a world filled with squash growers, many eating from cross pollinated compost piles and gardens each year and only 3 serious cases are widely known of, the risk seems extremely low. Although, I do recommend being aware of it and being a smart gardening, I don't think people need to panic and start giving up on growing edible squash.
So what should you do to prevent Toxic Squash?
You can start with trying to prevent cross pollination. I would recommend being most careful with gourds cross pollinating with edible squash. If you do have wild cucurbitaceae growing in your area I would definitely be more careful to avoid cross pollination.
Be careful with cucurbitaceae plants becoming heat stressed. This can cause an increase in the toxins developing.
And the #1 rules for preventing Squash Poisoning…
Do a tiny taste test before eating any squash or squash from the cucurbitaceae family.Never eat it, if it is bitter.
Take a tiny taste of any edible squash before consuming (a very small amount can make you sick so spit it out if it tastes at all bitter). Be especially careful with squash that may get lost in the flavour of something else such as zucchini in a stew or pasta sauce. Taste test before cooking it into a sauce. If it is bitter, do not consume it. Simple as that.
Important to note is that the cross pollination impacts will not take effect until you have eaten the squash grown from the cross pollinated plant. So, the second generation of squash.
Now, if you take the seed from the above OK cross pollinated squash to grow next years plant, that is where the risk for toxic squash will increase.
In my mind, even if you are buying your seed from a company though, there is no way to guarantee the seed you are purchasing has not been cross pollinated. Growers would have to manually pollinate and protect the flowers from any pollinators and yes some do.
This leads me back to the best way to prevent toxic squash poisoning is just to test it and never eat a bitter squash.
Again, the risk is low. Getting in your car is far more dangerous than the squash in your garden but I think it is still very important to have the knowledge that it exists.
So keep growing squash, just do so now with Toxic Squash awareness.
Feel free to comment with anything you have learned on toxic squash, we would certainly love to see more research and findings on the subject.
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As you may have heard, I have the best neighbours. One of the great things about them is they share great recipes that use my abundance of garden goods. This is one they recently shared with me that they rave about and makes good use of the highly prolific yellow squash.
Ranch Summer Squash Bake
Slice squash thin.
Layer in a baking dish.
Sprinkle with Ranch Seasoning.
Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese
Sprinkle with Italian cheese.
Layer more squash and repeat sprinkling.
Add a few Tbsp of butter.
Bake @ 350 for 45 minutes.
Recipe credit: Wanda Jones Taylor with amendments by Nancy Smith < This is the awesome neighbour.
Super simple and yet very tasty!
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So one of my gardening superpowers seem to be the ability to grow Spaghetti Squash. And any squash in general is my favourite thing to grow in the garden. This is nature's way of giving people package food.
I have picked Squash in September and have still been using them in February. Spaghetti Squash does absolutley ripen off of the vine. Just wipe them with with a bit of water and bleach to prevent mold and store in a cool place. I found if you want them to ripen faster a bit of sun on them helped.
In this season I had over 30 squash from just 4 plants in a raised bed. I was giving away Spaghetti Squash like crazy.
So first off, what makes Spaghetti Squash so fun to grow?
You can play the role of the Bee and pollinate them. There is something fun about getting up in the morning, grabbing a Q-Tip and wandering through your garden looking for male and female squash flowers to transfer pollen onto. Ok maybe this makes me a garden geek, but I am totally ok with that.
It can be mind blowing how many Squash suddenly start appearing. You start with one, then before you know you move a few leaves and you have ten.
The best year I have had was using good fresh compost. Good compost makes a huge difference.
You need a decent amount of sun, this is not one I would grow in a part shade garden.
Don't pinch vines or baby Squash. Everyone kept telling me you get bigger Squash if you only have 1 growing per vine. Do not listen to this! I had huge Squash and all sorts of Squash in between. You really don't need giant Squash unless you are competing in a fair. So having lots of Squash in varying sizes just meant great dinner options. I would use the big ones for company and the little ones for when I was on my own. If I would have pinched the vines there would have been no way I would have grown over 30 Squash. So let them grow and just feed the plant well.
Squash is a vine and will take up a lot of space. So I usually plant them against the edge of a raised bed or at the end of a garden plot so I can direct their vine off to the side.
And once you have grown one, get planning how you will devour it. One of my favourite recipes is for my Spaghetti Squash Pasta.
Ok, go unleash your inner garden geek and get growing Spaghetti Squash, it won't disappoint I promise!
It's fun and rewarding to grow Squash.
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These beautiful packages of perfection are a lot of fun to grow. I started growing squash to support my love for Halloween Pumpkin carving. But then it expanded to other squashes. To this day though Spaghetti Squash and Pumpkin are definitely my favourite.
The top three things I love about squashes are:
You can save their seeds and grow your own supply.
They store well. I have had Spaghetti squash last me 6 months.
In the north they are relatively untouched by bugs or critters.
Squash need a good amount of sun and lots of spreading and growing room. They love to crawl and send their vines to hang onto other plants.
If people tell you to cut off the fruit to get bigger squash, don't! I have never found that to be true. The only thing that happens is the earlier squash are bigger and you end up with lot of squash if you let them grow.
This beautiful harvest of Squashes included 36 Spaghetti Squash. These came from 4 plants. I was giving away squashes all over the place.
With Squash one factor I think helps with high yields is pollinating them yourself. I don't find the bees overly interested in Squash flowers. Also, Squash flowers only give you about a day and then they close up. You need a male flower to pollinate the female flower. So for me this is part of my happy summer routine. I go hunting for new Squash babies, each morning I check for their flowers to open and then using a Q-tip I pollinate them. It doesn't have to be a like squash to pollinate each one either. You can use Pumpkin pollin to pollinate a Spaghetti Squash.
I think once I get to the South I will expand my squash testing and try a butternut! So stay tuned, more to come on Squashes!