Winter Squash & Pumpkin Fun - by Carl Wilson
As summer moves into fall, peek in your neighbor’s gardens and see what type of winter squash and pumpkins they’re growing. They are often standouts for their color and size.
Pick most winter squash when the skin has hardened into a tough rind not easily dented with light fingernail pressure. The seeds within should have matured unlike the young tender seeds in summer squash. When ripened to maturity, fruits of most varieties can be stored for use through the winter.
Winter squash are harvested in September or October, before heavy frosts. Carefully cut squash from the vines, leaving two inches of the often-woody stem attached if possible. Avoid cuts and bruises to the fruit when handling. Fruits that aren’t fully mature, are injured, have had their stems knocked off, or have been subjected to heavy frost won’t keep. Use as soon as possible or compost (watch for seedlings in the compost).
Squash are best stored dry at a temperature between 50 and 55°F. Don’t pile squash more than two fruits deep. Single layers that don’t touch prevent rots from spreading through fruit.
Don’t forget that squash and pumpkin seeds can be dried in a dehydrator or roasted for a healthy snack. When scooping out the seeds to use the fruit, wash the clinging fibers from the seed and then dry or roast.
Dry in a dehydrator at 115 to 120 degrees F for 1 to2 hours or in an oven on warm for 3 to 4 hours. Stir frequently to avoid scorching.
To roast seeds, toss 2 C dried pumpkin seeds with 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 tsp salt. Roast in a preheated oven at 250 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes.
Nutrient wise, ¼ cup of roasted pumpkin seeds contributes 202 calories, 8 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams fat, 0 cholesterol and 297 milligrams sodium.
Photo credits: Squash arbor, Turks turban squash, Cinderella pumpkin, Pumpkin vines over window well, streetside pumpkin garden, vegetable spaghetti squash – Carl Wilson
Updated Saturday, September 25, 2010