Sat October 20, 2012
Garden Report

Gardening Guide: Squash and Pumpkins

As cooler temperatures move in and the leaves begin to change, there’s no denying fall is here. KUNC’s Gardener Tom Throgmorton knows a few tricks to get the most out of the season’s treats, squash and pumpkins.

I’m seeing great displays of pumpkins and squash in front of folk’s homes. These annual, trailing vines are native throughout the Western Hemisphere. The family includes soft-sided summer squash - Zucchini - and hard-shelled winter squash - Acorns and Pumpkins.

Summer squash doesn't store. They should be eaten right after they're picked. Summer squash can be cooked a bushel of ways. Boiled in sauces; grated and baked in breads; sliced and fried; or eaten raw. Crooknecks, patty pans and zucchini are the most popular types of summer squash.

Winter squash are types like Butternut, Hubbard, Pumpkins and Spaghetti. Harvest winter squash before a hard freeze in the low twenties. Cut the vine so there is at least an inch of stem on each fruit. Let them cure in the sun for a week or so. Cover the fruits with a blanket at night if hard freezes are predicted.

Winter squash can be stored for months. They store best in a dry place where the temperature stays around 45 to 50 degrees. Any mold that grows on the skin can be wiped off. Winter squash is usually baked.

Another group of winter squash is usually grown as an ornament or utensil. Native Americans have used gourds for centuries. Gourds can be dried into seed shaking rattles, carved into birdhouses, dippers or mandolins. Store gourds like any other winter squash. Periodically wipe any mold off of the gourd skin to prevent rotting. It takes a full year for gourds to dry enough to be carved or become a rattle.

Pumpkins are one winter squash that is rarely baked; although there are varieties especially for pies and baking.

Credit Toyah / Wikimedia Commons

There are giant varieties like Atlantic Giant which grows to hundreds of pounds. Small pumpkins like Wee Be Little or Baby Bear are a hit with kids. On full moon nights, white pumpkins almost glow.

The traditional Jack O’ Lanterns are for carving. Carving pumpkins has become an art form. Stores sell special carving tools. Books of patterns are available. Colors and sizes of pumpkins make nighttime statements. I still like triangle eyes and noses with goofy, two tooth smiles.


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