Squash Varieties for Winter, Fall and Summer

Learn about the squash varieties available throughout three seasons, how to cure them and how to cook them to reap the full flavor of each season.

| 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

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 about the different squash varieties available in winter, fall and summer. 

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

Seven Superb, Gourmet-Quality, Long-Keeping Winter Squash Varieties

Big, long-storing max squash are ideal for the primary homestead squash food supply. It is much easier to harvest, or open and clean one 20-pound squash than twenty 1-pound squashes. In addi­tion, the small squash are mostly skin and seeds. The bigger squash has a much higher propor­tion of flesh. For the main food supply, I prefer a squash as big as possible, up to about 22 pounds, which is the largest size I can bake in the oven. Baked mashed squash freezes well, so having a small family is no reason to forgo growing the big squash that do the most efficient job of providing us with serious amounts of food.

‘Sweet Meat-Oregon Homestead’ 
Nate and I grow ‘Sweet Meat–Oregon Homestead’ as our major winter squash. This is a 16 to 24 pound slate-blue-gray, disk-shaped squash with very sweet, rich-flavored flesh that is unsurpassed in quality. The flesh is up to 3 1/2 inches thick. The seed cavity is tiny. Given the size of fruit and thickness and dryness of the meat, this squash is by far the best one for producing serious amounts of truly gourmet-quality food with minimal labor. (A ‘Sweet Meat–Oregon Homestead’ will give you about three times as much food as a ‘Blue Hubbard’ of equal size.) The baked squash freezes well. I ordinarily bake a squash, eat a meal of it, make a couple of pies from it, then freeze the rest. The next time I want squash, I open another and repeat. By late spring, I’ve processed all the squash and have a year’s supply frozen. Baked mashed ‘Sweet Meat’ squash is the main vegetable I freeze.

‘Sweet Meat’ squash is an Oregon heirloom with huge seeds and a capability of germinat­ing in cold mud and growing vigorously in cool weather. The plants have big vines that run 20 feet in all directions. However, the commercial ‘Sweet Meat’ has deteriorated and no longer has thick flesh, big seeds, or an ability to excel in typi­cal Oregon spring weather. I searched for years to find a line that was still not too badly deterio­rated, then reselected it for the original virtues. The results, after a few years and more than a ton of squash, is ‘Sweet Meat–Oregon Homestead’.

With all other varieties of squash I have grown, the immature or undersized late fruits on the vine don’t keep well. However, even the immature and subprime fruits of ‘Sweet Meat’ squash keep well. They don’t continue to sweeten as prime fruits do. But they don’t deteriorate either. When properly harvested and stored, nearly every ‘Sweet Meat’ will keep without losing quality until the follow­ing summer or even longer. The fact that even the culls of ‘Sweet Meat’ keep well matters. Those culls are one of the major foods for my duck flock in winter and spring.

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