2017 was that second time in the six years that we have lived in this house where I have picked that last of my winter squash in December. In this case, December 7, 2017. I always leave the last few winter squash for picking at the last possible moment to get as many full ripe fruits as possible. Fortunately, I was watching my iPhone and thought the night get colder than I would like and did not want to risk my squash to a frost any longer. So, I went out into the rain and harvested my last four golden butternut squashes from my vegetable garden. As you can see in the picture about where they are still wet from the rain. In all, it was 42 pounds of ripe butternut squash.
It was a good thing I did because it was snowing a couple hours later, not a common thing here in San Antonio, Texas.
I’m a little slow getting this post, but as it happens, I’m cooking one of them, smaller for seed, ten pounders today, which got me thinking about the December harvest.
Squash is a warm-season crop. It should not be planted until the danger of frost is past. In the list below, note the species from which each variety has been selected. Some do better in certain climates and have different growing season lengths.
C. argyrosperma and C. mixta grow best in hot arid climates like the Southwest United States
C. maxima grow best in cooler northern climates, especially along coastal areas of large lakes or oceans where the growing temperature may be more consistent
C. moschata are best grown in southern humid climates
C. pepo does best in areas in climates which provide even rainfalls and temperature ranges, such as, coastal regions and the midwestern United States.
When deciding what Squash and, or Pumpkins to grow in your family’s garden consider:
Growing types that your family eats regularly, there is no point in growing something that may go waste. Especially, when you consider the time, water, and garden space used to produce your squash and, or pumpkins.
How you use the squash if you want a few squashes and/or pumpkins to eat or to be used to as a decoration. Then, perhaps growing a variety that grows to a 1,000 pound might not be the best choice.
How you intend to grow your squash or pumpkins. If you have limited space you may want to consider bush types, which use less space, perhaps some of the smaller varieties that can be grown vertically on trellises or incorporated into the landscaping of your home.
Your garden site, for example, does it have deep soil or should consider raised beds.
The pests and diseases common to your area and buy resistant varieties, if available.
The length of your growing season. If you live in a short season area purchasing an early producing variety, may improve your success.
Perhaps, the better and most cost-effective way to keep winter squash and pumpkins is cool storage. For cool storage to be effective the fruit must be consistently stored above freezing and the germination temperature. Please note, Not all squash store equally well. With that said, I have stored some varieties a winter squash so long that we have had to eat them just to make room for the New Year’s harvest.
For best results:
cure in warm area squash or pumpkins for a week to 10 days,
clean off dirt with a damp soft cloth,
with a second clean soft cloth wash with 1 cup vinegar to one gallon of water, and allow the skin to dry completely before storage.
Store in a cool (40-550 F), dry place to prevent shrivel, lose weight, and to postpone spoilage as long as possible.
Position the fruit so that the fruit is not touching one another and so that air can flow freely around the fruit.
I recommend placing as many of the fruit where they can be easily seen, for easy inspection for signs for an impending loss. The sweetness and quality of squash or pumpkins often improve, if cured for 2 to 4 weeks, or more in storage.
Where to Store Squash and Pumpkins
where to store your squash is a little less important provided the required temperatures can be maintained. Some of the more common places are root cellars, pantries, basements. Just about any place with a cool constant temperature within the ranges required will do. However, it’s best if it’s a place that’s convenient and semi-protected. You don’t want your squash to be damaged by kids playing or by having to crawl over them to get to something important which might beast stored above are behind them. Perhaps, my favorite throughout the years has been the root cellar I grew up with them in Oregon and I’ve long appreciated their value for storing vegetables of all types including winter squash for long periods of time to do the harshest weather during winter. I have, in places like Virginia and Minnesota, used the basement of the home in which I lived. Pantries can be a little more problematic for a couple of reasons. First, having sufficient space to store all the pumpkins and squash growing volumes at my gardens produce. Second, my pantries are usually attached to the house and tend not to read to retain a constant cool temperature.
Is your storage location too warm?
The best way to tell if your storage location is too warm, other than a thermometer, is that when you break open the squash, if you see seeds that have sprouted, then your storage area is too warm the seeds are germinating.
The common species of squashes and pumpkins used by gardeners are native to the Western Hemisphere and wild varieties can occasionally be found in their native environments.
C. maxima – Represented by the Hubbard, Delicious, Marblehead, Boston Marrow, and Turks Turban are varieties thought to have originated in northern Argentina, near the Andes, or in certain Andean valleys. Maxima varieties like cooler climates with regular rainfall.
C. moschata – Represented by such varieties as butternut, Winter Crookneck Squashes, and Japanese Pie and Large Cheese Pumpkins are native to Mexico and Central America. This species prefers and tolerates hot growing conditions and longer growing seasons of the southern regions.
C. pepo – Apparently originated in the same general area of Mexico and Central America as C. Maxima and is represented by Golden Acorn, Jack-Be-Little, Connecticut Field, and Delicata. Pepo varieties like cooler climates with regular rainfall.
C. argyrosperma –Includes many of the traditional winter squashes known as Cushaws, which have been grown since early times from Guatemala to the southwestern U.S. Members of this species are drought-tolerant and their flesh is generally paler, stringier and less sweet than other types of squash.