Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Curing Squash for Better Flavor — Tips from The Resilient Gardener

Reposted from GRIT.com

In The Resilient Gardener (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010) scientist and gardener Carol Deppe combines her passion for gardening with newly emerging scientific information from many fields—resilience science, climate change, sustainable agriculture and more. In this book you’ll learn how to garden in an era of unpredictable weather and climate change; grow, store and cook different varieties of her five “key crops”; and keep a home laying flock of ducks or chickens. Deppe didn’t just write this book, she lives the principles in it every day, and you can, too, with her expert advice. In this excerpt from chapter 10, “Squash and Pumpkins,” learn how curing squash brings out the best flavor and texture for cooking.

Why You Can’t Buy a Prime Winter Squash

Bad squash, like bad coins, tend to drive out the good. Wherever bad coins circulate, people keep back the good ones and spend the bad. Soon only bad coins are circulating. The grower who picks squash too early is the first to market. He beats out those who grow their squash to full maturity by weeks. Customers see those first displays of squashly beauty in the fall and celebrate the season by buying one. Then they try to eat it. Then they remember why they don’t usually buy squash. So year after year, the customer is discouraged from buying squash, and year after year, the fact that squash can be a spectacular, gourmet-quality food remains largely a secret.

Squash in the supermarkets and even those in the farmer’s markets are often not of the best varieties. However, even the good early varieties are picked immature. Then they are sold uncured. Cucurbita maxima (the most common “winter squash”) varieties should have a full month of curing before going to market. Farmers are not set up to do that, and customers don’t know that they should, and it isn’t worth the effort anyway if the squash isn’t full grown. If we want prime winter squash, we must select premier gourmet varieties, then grow and cure them ourselves.

Curing Squash: Three Squash Species, Three Curing and Use Patterns

There are three major squash species grown and used in the United States and Canada: Cucurbita maxima, C. pepo, and C. moschata. (A fourth, Cucurbita mixta, isn’t widely grown, as it requires too much heat for most people in the United States to grow and has poor flesh. In Mexico, however, there are many mixta varieties, which are grown primarily for their edible seeds. I won’t cover C. mixta.)

Squash varieties of the Cucurbita maxima species need a full month of storage indoors to cure into prime quality. Many max varieties will keep several months. Some varieties actually become sweeter and develop more intense flavors for six months or more of storage. ‘Sweet Meat-Oregon Homestead’ is actually sweeter and more flavorful at six months than when harvested and is still only getting better. Some varieties, such as ‘Sweet Meat-Oregon Homestead’ and ‘Blue Hubbard’, are very large and are especially nice for those who want to use prime winter squash as a major part of the homestead food supply. There are also prime smaller varieties such as ‘Buttercup’, for those who just want a meal at a time for a person or two. The better-keeping max varieties can provide prime squash through March and even beyond. The very largest varieties of orange pumpkins, which are not culinary quality, are also maxes.

Cucurbita maxima varieties include ‘All Gold’, ‘Amish Pie Pumpkin’, ‘Atlantic Giant’, ‘Autumn Pride’, ‘Banana’ (all), ‘Big Max’, ‘Big Moon’, ‘Black Forest’, ‘Blue Ballet’, ‘Buttercup’ (all), ‘Flat White Boer’, ‘Gold Nugget’, ‘Hokkaido’ (all), ‘Hubbard’ (all), ‘Jarrahdale’, ‘Kindred’, ‘Kuri’ (all), ‘Marina di Chioggia’, ‘Mooregold’, ‘Queensland Blue’, ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’ (a.k.a. Cinderella), ‘Sibley’, and ‘Turban’ (all).

The species Cucurbita pepo includes nearly all our summer squash as well as most of the small and medium-sized Halloween pumpkins that are not culinary quality, many ornamental pump­kins, naked-seeded pumpkins, and many gourds. It also includes a few winter squash varieties of prime eating quality such as the delicatas and the classic ‘Small Sugar Pie’ (a.k.a. ‘New England Pie Pumpkin’). All the pepos of prime culinary qual­ity are small.

The pepos require only about seven to four­teen days of curing. So we can eat the little prime pepos while we are waiting for our maxes to cure. Ideally, we eat up the pepos before the end of December. Even those that are among the better keepers are not prime beyond that time. The pepos are prime right after the curing period and deteriorate from there, with the flesh getting stringier, and the sugar and flavor going downhill. The better-storing pepos such as the delicatas are prime for two months only, and good for no more than three. The prime pepos such as delicatas and ‘Small Sugar’ have flavors that are distinct enough from those of the maxes so as to constitute an entirely different vegetable.

KEEP READING: http://cappers.grit.com/garden/vegetables/curing-squash-ze0z1212zwar.aspx#ixzz2Hc20BWDk


Homesteading Q&A: Solutions for Stumps, Smelly Chicken Manure, and More

September is in full swing and that means it’s time to officially celebrate Homesteading Month. Throughout the next few weeks, we are putting our expert homesteading authors at your disposal for a month-long Q&A session. If you are looking to become a better homesteader or thinking of living off the land for the first time, […] Read More..

Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Pancake

When most people think pancakes, they think breakfast. But for Amy Halloran, breakfast is only the start.Halloran, author of The New Bread Basket, is a self-described pancake connoisseur. From a young age, she was entranced by the magic of bubbly batter rising to fluffy cakes on the griddle. Over time, her love of pancakes developed […] Read More..

5 Common Invasive Species and How to Manage Them

Last week, we asked authors Tao Orion and Katrina Blair to share alternative approaches to managing five different plant species commonly held to be “invasive.” St. John’s Wort, Garlic Mustard, Thistle, Oxeye Daisy, and Kudzu are often dismissed as annoyances at best and the target of aggressive eradication with harmful chemicals at worst. Orion and […] Read More..

Uncovering the Many Uses for Abundant Kudzu

As Invasive Species Week comes to a close, Tao Orion, author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species, and Katrina Blair, author of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds,  share alternative approaches to understanding and managing Kudzu. Take a look through our final profile and check out any you might have missed along the way: Oxeye […] Read More..

Oxeye Daisy: A Plant for the Pollinators

As Invasive Species Week continues, Tao Orion, author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species, and Katrina Blair, author of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, are sharing alternative approaches to managing and using plants considered to be “invasive.” Take a look through today’s profile on Oxeye Daisy and check out tips for working with Garlic […] Read More..