Near the end of summer, once I know there isn't enough time for them to mature before frost, I start using my immature winter squash. I usually like them better than the summer squash I grow. They've got a firmer texture and nicer flavour.
So what would be the best winter squash to grow for exclusively immature squash?
It would have to be one that quickly sets a lot of fruit, preferably without breaks. One thing I notice with my winter squash is that the plants seem to produce in flushes...but maybe that's just cause I don't pick any until the end of the season. In any case, continuous fruit set would be nice.
Good flavour is a bonus. I like my summer squash to be mild flavoured, but not totally bland like most zucchini. I pretty much only grow maximas, which are a bit strong tasting when immature, but still fine for most applications. The couple times I've grown moschatas, I found their flavour to be more mild and versatile.
We started doing this also after using the end of year immature squash for many years. We grow Delicata for dual purpose as we also seed save and that's the only Pepo species since we stopped doing the zukes, so no worries about crossing. This variety works well for us in SE Minnesota. We like Maximas too but the squash vine borer is too much of a problem here, so our main winter squash variety is a Moschata called Canada Crookneck that keeps extrmely well (we still have about 10 fruits lefts from last year). But the Delicata seems to fruit more even when picked immature, and it keeps putting out.
Jan White wrote:Larissa, do you have separate delicata plants for winter and summer squash production? Do you leave some to mature on each vine and pick the rest immature, as needed?
I wondered if delicata would be a good choice. Maybe I'll get some started.
I just plant a patch. This year we have 3 hills with 4 plants/hill. I pick when I want to eat some, leaving some of the early, big, beautiful to set seed. As the plants get big it's easy to miss fruits so some will be left to mature on each vine, but it's rather serendipitous as to how it works out. The biggest plus is that if I miss picking some of the immature fruits, we get winter squash instead of a zucchini monster only suitable for a zucchini toss (a fun yard game in season).
I like butternuts as dual-purpose squash. I used to grow Zucchetta Rampicante, but now I use Bigger Better Butternuts. The flavor is similar between the two, but BBB keeps longer. (ZR keeps well into April if not damaged, but BBB can keep over a year and into December.)
For years I’ve been growing a landrace pumpkin, and I so often use the immature fruits that I have to tag a few to remind myself to save them for the seed for propagation. While I do enjoy pumpkin soup occasionally (made from mature pumpkins that I harvest for seed), I normally use the immature pumpkins like summer squash. My favorite recipes are curries, with stir fry coming in second best.
Around my area it’s a real challenge to grow summer squash unless it’s protected in a screenhouse or greenhouse. And even then, powdery mildew kills the plants early. So the immature pumpkins are what people around here use instead of summer squash. Plus, it’s not any old pumpkin variety. The pests and diseases get most pumpkins. So I only grow a landrace.
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