Squash

One squash plant can provide a family with enough to have plenty for meals throughout the week for most of the summer.  I planted Early Summer Crookneck variety that I got at the Dollar Tree for 25 cents.  The seeds were planted just a few weeks ago, never watered them, (just a little rain) and I currently have 5 gigantic plants growing  little squash. I will probably be giving away bunches.

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Last year I dehydrated some to put in mason jars to use in soups, stews and casseroles that rehydrates easily in water.  Pioneers and mountaineers would keep produce this way by running string through things like green beans and peppers and hang to dehydrate somewhere dry like the kitchen.  If you do not have a dehydrator you can lay vegetables and fruit out to dry in the sun on trays, just cover with screen or fine cloth to keep flies off.

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Dehydrated squash kept in a mason jar

IF sealed tight, they can last a really long time, perhaps years as long as no moisture reaches them.  By far this is the best way I think to preserve it, as it tends to get too mushy when processed in the canner.  Here is a picture of what canned zucchini squash looks like…..

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Canned zucchini squash…a little mushy

I am not a fan of the texture, but it would do if I were really hungry.  I do enjoy it stewed fresh with onions, salt and pepper occasionally for a quick supper side dish though.

Squash is really mild and tasty if eaten raw on a salad and covered with a light dressing.  I think they are best this way if picked small before seeds begin to develop.

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Summer Succotash photo courtesy http://www.karenskitchen stories.com

Another delicious way to eat it is to make homemade refrigerator pickles with them: slice cucumbers, squash, onions, add tomatoes if you like, then equal parts vinegar and water with a spoonful of sugar and a little salt in a container.  I don’t use a recipe, just usually go by taste.  Here is a recipe I might try for Spicy Squash  Refrigerator Pickles from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

Spicy Squash Refrigerator Pickles
Spicy Squash Refrigerator Pickles .. gotta try this!

 

There is another type of squash that you can grow to harvest in the fall called winter squash.

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Photo courtesy http://www.healthystartsinthekitchen.com

Winter squash varieties are many and include butternut and acorn squash that are regularly sold in the grocery stores.   They are not picked fresh and tender but are left on the vine until hardened in the fall and have a long shelf life (can be eaten through the winter).  They can be cubed and boiled, mashed like potatoes, oven roasted with butter and garlic, grilled, made into pie, (like pumpkin!) or puréed and added to breads. With a sweet flavor they are a good healthy alternative to starchy potatoes, as they contain high amounts of vitamin C, beta-carotene, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, anti-inflammatory properties, and a 1/2 cup serving has over 3 grams of fiber. (Organicauthority.com)

The variety we chose to grow this year in the garden is Candy Roaster Melon.  An heirloom of western North Carolina Cherokee heritage.

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It is a vine that crawls like a pumpkin, not a bush like the above summer squash.    The seeds can be found at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange where they are saving and growing hard to find strains of seeds.  The Candy Roaster can keep up to four months and gets sweeter as it ripens.

It is not too late to plant this prolific plant in your garden or even try one in a container on the patio.  You will enjoy always having something to eat, and most likely have lots to share with neighbors!  Happy gardening!

 

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