By Katie Possis, Master Gardener
It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn to celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends and the joy of decorating for the holiday. We plant, grow, and nurture our vegetable gardens for the healthy fruits of our fall harvest and also as decorations for our Thanksgiving table and décor. As we look forward to preparing deeply satisfying hearty dishes from a bountiful Fall harvest, winter squash holds a special place at the table.
Winter squash are fruit that grow on the vine. They are from the genus Cucurbita from the family Cucurbitaceae. There are, of course, subtle differences that set them apart from each other. This article will talk about 2 of the 12 most popular squash varieties along with interesting recipes that excite the taste buds.
Starting with a favorite – Sugar Pumpkins are nutrient packed. For example: one cooked cup of Pumpkin has 49 calories, 76 grams of protein, 17 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbohydrate; a real booster for the immune system. Sugar Pumpkins have thick skin with sweet flesh and are less fibrous than other winter squash. For a new favorite recipe using roasted pumpkin, check out the recipe Pumpkin With Creme Fraiche, Peanut Rayu, Coriander & Spring Onion. – GIY Ireland Ltd for a real treat.
Tip for choosing: make sure your pumpkin is heavier than you expect it to be when you pick it up, the skin needs to be firm and a fingernail should not pierce the skin, the stem needs to look like is has died off and is hard. A pumpkin’s stem is the seal between the stalk and fruit. Never lift the pumpkin by the stem as breaking this seal may cause molds and fungal spores which ensure speedy decay.
If the pumpkin has been properly cured, it will be beautifully intact for several months. Proper curing takes a few weeks but it’s worth the effort. The pumpkin needs to be dried in the sun, kept away from rain and moisture. Do this for the top side up for 2 weeks then gently flip over for the bottom side to cure for the next two weeks. The curing process can also be accomplished inside next to a sunny window. As this point, the pumpkin is ready to adorn your front steps or buffet table.
Second up, Kabocha Squash is a Japanese variety of the Cucurbita maxima species. Often used in Japanese and Korean cooking, this squash has a dark green and orange rind. Known for its nutty, earthiness, and with a kiss of sweet flavor, it is a great choice for cooking. The nutritional value of one cup of cooked Kabocha – 49 calories, 1.8 grams protein, 0.2 grams of fat, and 8 grams of carbohydrate. Great news, this squash has a lower glycemic load than a sweet potato which won’t make the blood sugar spike. A great recipe to try is Korean Braised Kabocha Squash – The Plant-Based Wok (theplantbasedwok.com) Enjoy!
Tips for growing: the Kabocha squash can be grown in full sun 6-8 hours on a trellis which gives height and interest to your garden landscape. The trellis will need a minimum of two to three supports hammered into the ground deep enough for the frame to hold the heavy plant laden with large fruit. The benefits of trellising for the plant are great air circulation and room to grow as each plant will need approximately 10 to 15 feet in length. The rich deep green of the Kabocha squash pairs nicely with orange pumpkins, yellow spaghetti squash, and blues of the Hubbard of the winter squash to create a visual feast for the eyes.