Drying Squash: Using the Sun or an Electric Dehydrator

Drying squash can be rewarding. Learn how to do it using the sun or a dehydrator and incorporate it into soups, stews and more.

| December 2012

  • The Resilient Gardener By Carol Deppe
    “The Resilient Gardener” goes beyond traditional gardening guides and gives readers the tools to be self-reliant no matter what the world throws their way. From global warming and nantural disasters to food allergies and weight control, “The Resilient Gardener” has it covered.
    Cover Courtesy Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Summer Squash
    It was slices of summer squash, including the seed cavities and immature seeds, that were dried.
    Photo By Fotolia/nemesis2207

  • The Resilient Gardener By Carol Deppe
  • Summer Squash

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 drying squash increases the versatility of your preserving and cooking, and make flavorful soups and stews once the season is over. 

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The Resilient Gardener.

Following in Buffalo Bird Woman’s Footsteps—Adventures with Drying Squash

For Buffalo Bird Woman, the Hidatsa Indian featured in Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden, it was dry slices of immature squash that were the main squash staple, not fully mature squash. I love growing squash. And Buffalo Bird Woman had a production system for dried squash that looked very efficient as well as fun. So I studied the text and pictures in the book for hours.

Buffalo Bird Woman and other Hidatsa and Mandan Indian women harvested their squash when they were about fist-sized. (We don’t know what varieties they were using. Their squash varied in color and shape, and they may not have been pure varieties.) At this stage, the squash skin was still tender and the seeds immature enough to be palatable. That is, the squash were being harvested at the summer squash stage. It was slices of summer squash, including the seed cavi­ties and immature seeds, that were dried.

The picked squash were cut into slices about 3/8-inch thick. The ends were set aside. The rest of the slices were skewered onto sharpened willow sticks through the soft pulp in the middle of the seed cavities, and the slices were then separated along the stick to allow airflow between them. Each stick with its squash was then placed on a raised drying rack in the sun. The squash took several days to dry completely. If rain threatened, the entire frame with all the sticks of squash was covered with hides.

After the squash was dried, a second, thinner willow stick with a piece of string attached was threaded through the holes of the squash on each stick. (This is while the slices were still on the first stick. The holes around the stick expand as the squash dries.) Then the squash was efficiently transferred from the stick to the needle-stick to the string. Each string of squash was tied into a circle and then hung indoors or hidden with corn and other dry staples in buried food caches.



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