In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
Time to harvest pumpkins. Pumpkins make tasty meals and pies throughout winter if cured and stored properly.
Winter Squash and Pumpkins
The first hint of fall always sends me scurrying to check out jack-o-lantern candidates, but this year, for the first time, we grew our own pumpkins. As if planned, our pumpkin vine produced two perfect-sized squash for my two daughters. The girls have been carefully tending them all season and were thrilled when they really did turn orange like I said they would.
Loads of Squash
I love winter squash. I also grew white and green acorn squash this year, although our butternuts and delicatas, my favorites, didn't survive our early summer deluges. This didn't stop me from loading up on winter squash, though. A trip to the local farmers market presented us with all types of irresistible winter squash. It's hard not to load the car with buttercups, Turk's turbans, blue hubbards, cushaws, Japanese pumpkins, and casabas.
Back in my garden, I experimented with new varieties this year. Several seed catalogs now carry squash varieties with multiple uses. These types of squash can be harvested when young and eaten like a zucchini or left to mature and harvested as winter squash. This sounds like a great solution to a problem most gardeners have but will not admit - not getting to the zucchini before it gets the size of a baseball bat (with about the same flavor!). One I tried this year now has a rind so hard I'm tempted to use it as a round gourd. Sort of tastes like one, too.
Harvesting Winter Squash
Winter squash and pumpkins begin ripening in August and continue into October, and I try to harvest all mine before the first frost arrives. They're ready for harvest when the rind is hard enough that you cannot make a dent in it with your fingernail. I cut the squash with a couple of inches of stem and leave them to cure for about ten days in a dry, airy spot before moving them into cooler storage.
Storing Winter Squash
Winter squash and pumpkins can be stored for months in a cool basement if you follow these steps: Harvest before a frost. When they're ready for storage, wash them with soapy water and dip them in a mixture of one part bleach to six parts water, making sure to soak the stem end. This helps prevent fungal problems. Dry them well and store them on wire racks in a cold room.
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