Walker: A guide to winter and summer squashes

U of I Master GardenerOctober 10, 2013 

A sweet dumpling and a white acorn, two types of winter squash.


What’s the difference between a winter squash and a summer squash?

Winter squashes grow on vines and summer squashes grow on bushes.

Summer squashes develop rapidly after pollination and should be harvested before they’re fully mature — when they’re 2 inches or less in diameter and the rind is still tender and edible. Leaving them on the plant too long will give you a huge — but tough — squash.

If you discover a zucchini hiding on a plant and it’s gotten too large and tough, peel it, grate it, and make zucchini bread!

Summer squashes should be consumed soon after harvesting. Winter squashes can be stored for two to four months (depending on the variety).

Winter squashes need the entire season to mature, so they should be left on their vines until their rinds are hard and the seeds have matured. However, they need to be harvested before heavy frosts.

Winter squashes that have cuts in their rinds or bruises, have been subjected to frosts, are not fully mature or have the stems removed should be used first. They won’t store as long as healthier fruits.

Store them in a dry place at a temperature between 45 and 55 degrees. If space allows, store them in a single layer, not touching each other. They’ll keep better that way.

The most common varieties of summer squashes are zucchini, crookneck, straightneck and scalloped (such as patty pans). There are online seed vendors that sell many more, lesser known, varieties.

The most common varieties of winter squashes are acorn, butternut, delicata, Hubbard, spaghetti and pumpkins. Again, online vendors have many more varieties.

So next spring, grow a variety you haven’t tried before!

If you have particular questions about gardening you’d like to see addressed in this column, send them to highprairielandscapedesign@yahoo.com.

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