Ecology / Food

Squash Harvest

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Yesterday, I harvested my squashes. The long green one in the background is a ripe zucchini (what you normally buy as zucchini is the unripe stage). When they reach this ripe stage, you have to peel them and remove the seeds. I had several of them during the summer, they grow very quickly and you can fry, bake or cook them.

The other green ones are “Green Hokkaidos”. The one on the right with the grey stripes is a ripe one, the smaller ones started growing later and did not make it to the fully ripe stage, but they are delicious anyway. Since the plants started wilting and dying, they would not become better any more.

The two long beige ones are “Butternuts”, another delicious type with orange flesh. One way to prepare them is to bake them with salt, pepper and a little bit of oil, but you can also prepare them sweet, for example with cinnamon and sugar (also backed).

The remaining ones are “Sweet Dumplings”. I have sometimes seen them being sold as decoration. With their green stripes they actually look very beautiful and many people buy them for their beauty. They can sometimes have some orange stripes as well. Many people, including people in the shops selling them, don’t know they are edible.

Actually, while the normal decorative gourds are bitter and even poisonous, “Sweet Dumpling” is not only edible but is the most delicious type of squash I know. They are quite unlike other types of squash or pumpkin. When you fry them, the consistency resembles potatoes and they taste like sweet potatoes with a slight chestnut flavor (I have seen them also under the name “chestnut dream”). They are very special and a real delicacy. Last year I only had two, this year the harvest was good and we can look forward to eleven of them.

However, last year I had a lot of beans and lots of potatoes, this year the potatoes and the beans did not perform so well. The cold and wet spring was obviously bad for them. The squashes, on the other hand, were planted later and seem to have profited from the long and hot summer (and perhaps the horse manure I added).

Related articles:

The Start of the Gardening Season

Before the Harvest

Where I get most of my vegetables and potatoes from

14 thoughts on “Squash Harvest

    • One more point in addition to the other comment: the soil was dug over. Here it was done by machine and the soil was quite soft when the plants where planted, but doing it by hand should do. Maybe add some compost.

    • They need a lot of space, a lot of sun and a lot of nitrogen. I planted them when they had three leaves. They are then in the right stage for planting. I bought them like that. I have no experience in growing them from seeds. They where planted in May when there was no risk of frost again. They need about one meter distance to other plants in any direction. As fertilizer, I used a small cup full or horn shavings and some horse manure for each plant. Watering is necessary only when they are freshly planted. Initially, the plant grows very little but actually grows a lot underground. Once the root system is suficient, they sudenly grow big. Zucchinis grow like a small bush, the other types grow tendrils that can become several meters long. You might erect some frame to let them grow upwards, but not every type likes that (Sweet Dumpling seems to do better if they can spread on the ground). If you live in a cold place, a greenhouse might be good but I grew these in the open. Since they don’t like shade, it might be necessary to remove weeds if these grow above the leaves (I actually had to weed once).
      If you grow them from seeds, you have to study books or the internet on how to do that. You should not try to reuse the seeds from squashes you have grown because despite all the difference, pumpkins and squashes are essentially all the same species and crossbreed a lot (of course you can try, but I heard that the results can be quite surprising). If there are several kinds around, you will probably get hybrids that might look and taste different. They might crossbreed with decorative gourds that are bitter and poisonous (if in doubt you can try a piece of a raw squash, if it tasts bitter, don’t eat it). It is generally better to get the seeds from profesional breeders who will make sure to keep the different types separate. Organically grown seeds are available over the internet, you may also get young plants in some places, which I would prefer.
      Zucchinis belong to what is known as “summer squashes”. They produce a lot of fruits that grow very quickly and are comparatively watery, more akin to cucumbers. Some types (like white “ufos” are quite tasteless and bland. The other ones are “winter squashes”. Here, the fruits grow much more slowly, have more nutrients and more taste. If they are harvested ripe, when the stem has dried, you can normally keep them for weeks or months. I prefer small ones that are just good for one meal. There are some larger, pumpkin-like types that are delicious but if you don’t have a large family, you cannot finish them in one meal and once you cut them open, there is a risk that they will become moldy. The smaller ones also tend to taste better, at least as a general rule, although there are exceptions. I prefer the types that are more starchy or potato-like, like Sweet Dumpling or Black Futsu (not pictured, I did not have them this year), although some others, like Butternut, are also delicious.

      • Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a full reply! Brilliant! So many things you’ve said have answered why mine were such a failure… I think I planted them too early and they didn’t have enough room or enough sun! I’m going to copy your advice and keep it for next year. I won’t worry about the poisonous gourds because I shall just get the plants (probably not seeds) from a reputable garden centre. Many thanks!

        • Pleasure! I am looking forward to your one year from now showing your squashes.
          It is, of course, a matter of luck as well. Last year, I had very few squashes. The reasons seems to have been that at the time most of the flowers opened it was cold and rainy, so many where not pollinated. The main polinators seem to be bumblebees and they don’t fly if it is too cold.

          • Oh that happened to us too last year, we did get flowers and then nothing! The previous year we got tiny zucchini growing but then it was if the seeds inside of them started growing too and little stems came out of the fruit… very strange! Thanks again!

            • That sounds like some genetic mutation, or maybe there is some virus or other pathogen having such an effect. Sounds interesting scientifically but I suppose what you wanted was food, not a topic for a scientific paper. 😛

  1. Hi Nannus
    Here we call the smaller ones Zuccini and gourgette and New Zealanders like to harvest them when they are under 20 cm.The really large ones are called Marrow. You can buy those for 1 or 2 Dollare on the market. The seasons being the other way round here, I will plant Zucchini plants very soon, some of them in my glas house as it is so windy here…

    • The farmer from whom I rented my vegetable plot, a guy from Russia, told me that where he comes from, people don’t even know you can eat them when they are small and unripe. They always let them grow big. I also prefer them in that stage. You can cook them like cucumbers or bake them with minced meat, for example. When I harvest them small, I feel I have wasted a lot of food. If I let them grow a few more days, I get a pot full of food instead of just a small mouthful. You have to remove the seeds and maybe peel them, but they taste nice like that.
      Here the gardening season will soon come to its end. I still have some carrots to harvest and some red cabbage, brussels sprouts (they did not develop well this year but there are some), kale and a little this and that, but it will soon be over for this year.

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