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The Countless Ways To Utilize Winter And Summer Squash

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It’s October and that means we’ll begin seeing more and more squash and pumpkins on display. These annual, trailing vines are native throughout the Western Hemisphere. The family includes soft-sided summer squash like zucchini and hard-shelled winter squash like acorns and pumpkins.

Crooknecks, patty pans and zucchini are the most popular types of summer squash. Unlike winter squash, they don’t store and should be eaten right after they're picked. Summer squash can be boiled in sauces, grated and baked in breads, sliced and fried or simply eaten raw.

Winter varieties include butternut, pumpkins and spaghetti squash. 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.

While most winter squash are usually baked, pumpkins are one exception; although there are varieties suited for pies and baking. Sizes vary from the Atlantic Giant which grows to hundreds of pounds to Baby Bear at only a couple pounds. On full moon nights, white pumpkins almost glow. 

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 even mandolins. Gourds should be stored like other winter squash varieties. 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 turned into a household item. 

Whether used for decoration, as a musical instrument or for the health conscious, autumn is a great time to experiment with different squash varieties. 

Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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