Friday, 18 September 2015

2015 winter squash harvest

C. maxima - Green Hokkaido
Harvest time! All of the C. maxima plants have succumbed to end-of-season downy mildew by now, stems on the fruits have corked up nicely, and skins have hardened and faded in colour, so last week it was time to bring in the majority of this year's winter squash. Most people will leave their winter squash out in the field as long as possible, but maxima squashes actually don't mind being harvested just a tad early, about 40-45 days after flowering. Since I've had some problems with theft in my allotment, I choose to err on the side of caution and bring in the winter squash when I feel they've matured. They're currently spread all over my living room so they can cure a bit, after which they're going to the (unheated) attic for long-term storage. Having them heaped together like that is always a very satisfying sight. Name me one other food that looks as beautiful!

C. maxima - Sweet Mama
Anyway, before I launch off into another winter squash rant, here is what this year's crop looks like. The first number is the amount of squash per variety, the number in brackets is the number of plants there were of each:

15 [8] Sweet Mama
3 [1] Burgess Buttercup
4 [4] Sweet Meat Oregon Homestead
2+1? [5] Marina di Chioggia
1 [1] Galeux d'Eysines
1 [1] Blue Ballet
1 [1] Green Hokkaido

C. maxima - Sweet Meat Oregon Homestead
That's 27 squash from 21 plants, which is ok but it could definitely be better. Even though I increased spacing from last year, I think the plants were still too close together, which tends to affect yields negatively. Especially against the fence, where the Marina di Chioggia were planted, the vines were just layered on top of each other. Next year I'll be increasing my spacing further to 2mx1m, hopefully this will make for healthier plants longer into autumn as well. Sweet Mama is a semi-bush variety that needs relatively little space, so it is no surprise that it did so well compared to the others. The +1? for Marina marks a squash that is still growing and that I'm not sure will mature in time. Of the other two Marina's, one somehow got detached from the vine before it was fully grown, so I baked it the other day. While it completely lacked the typical sweetness of a ripe Marina, the taste was surprisingly good. It was starchy yet flavourful, a bit nutty and at times tasted exactly like mashed potatoes with spinach (which is a fond childhood memory of mine, in case that analogy seemed a bit random). I had one more piece right out the fridge a few hours later and that reminded me of cheesecake, which I suppose was mostly due to the texture. Surprisingly good for an immature squash!

C. moschata - Longue de Nice
As I eat my way through the rest over the coming months, I'll be saving seed from the very best for next year. I'm already looking forward to growing them out... The C. moschata are still in the garden, they need somewhat longer to mature and in contrast to C. maxima should actually stay on the vine as long as possible. There's two Longue de Nice fruits that I believe are nearly mature, and then there are a bunch of Waltham Butternut and Long Island Cheese that only started flowering very late, so it's yet to be seen if I'll get a fully mature squash off either of those. The Longue de Nice was aborting a lot of fruit in the beginning of the season. Fruits would first grow very long (some grew to 40 cms) but the head (where the seed forms, to the left in the picture) would fail to bulk up, and then it would start rotting from the top down. I believe this was due to poor pollination (there were no male moschata flowers at that time), which might mean that the moschata didn't cross with the pepo after all (or they crossed but then aborted anyway). I'll save seed from any mature (and tasty) moschata that I get and trial it next year. If it's contaminated with C. pepo genes I'll drop it, otherwise I'll try to develop a C. moschata landrace as well.

I leave you with the biggest and most alien squash coming out of the garden this year:

C. maxima - Galeux d'Eysines

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