26 Mar 2013

Spaghetti squash: a good winter veg

Prepping squash
An ice-cream scoop is the perfect tool for removing squash seeds.
Snow clinging to the roof tiles suggests a lunch of warming soups and squashes rather than salad. I haven't got any winter veg growing to fill the 'hungry gap' (last year's downpours rotted my perennial caulis, slugs got the rest) but what I do have, stored from last Autumn, are my spaghetti squashes, also known as my Squashed Pyjamas. They were one of my trophy veg last year because, after a very slow start, a couple of weeks of late summer sunshine revived their spirits and they grew almost daily, greening up the spaces between the fruit trees and producing several torpedo sized squashes before the season end. These were duly stored on a high shelf in my kitchen, probably not the most appropriate spot but it seems to have worked.

I retrieved one of the smaller squashes from its lofty perch at lunchtime on Sunday and prepped it for the oven with spices and herbs. (And my pruning saw - the rind is hard.) It was delicious.  A simple meal of good home-grown veggie nosh.  And with the added bonus of a snack bowl of edible seeds, also oven roasted - although I pulled out a few for resowing before they went into the oven.

I'm waiting for the weather to warm up to a regular 5C before I start sowing any seeds, meanwhile taking the opportunity to finalise what I'll grow in the veg patch this year. These squashes have definitely earned their place, albeit a rather large one as they need a lot of room.  Last year I started them off in 3 inch pots (set the seed on its side) and found they quickly needed potting on. Treat them like courgettes and plant them out in late May or early June in a sunny spot, keep them well-watered and well-fed (plenty of organic matter before planting preferably) and have bee friendly plants nearby to guide the bees in the right direction for pollinating the flowers.

Squash Pyjamas is less "floury" than butternut squash and more tasty than marrow. When cooked, the flesh shreds easily into strings, hence 'spaghetti' squash.  I cut mine in half, drizzled olive oil over the top, added a sprinkle of dried herbs, some smoked paprika, salt and pepper and then an extra smidgeon of butter on the top - and then roasted it for an hour at 180C.  A few slices of bacon would have only increased the pleasure. The seeds were washed of all squash flesh, dried and tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with the same herbs and seasoning as the squash and roasted for 15 minutes.  These make a very, very nice crunchy snack.

Eating squash

I bought my Squash Pyjama seeds from More Veg, a good investment at 3 seeds for 75p. In a good summer, this should yield at least 15 squashes - 5 per plant. Even in last year's washout weather, I still had 6 squashes from the two seeds that I grew; both germinated and I left the third seed as a standby which, as it turns out, was not needed.  The supplied seeds are not F1 so I presume  I can resow my seeds saved from the best plant, in which case my initial investment is even more of a bargain!  And don't forget, if we get a good summer and the squashes fruit prolifically as promised, I can also take a few of the edible flowers to add to salads or stuff them before deep frying, as per zucchini fritters.

Now I'm wondering if the young leaves can also be eaten, as you can with very young courgette leaves...

14 comments:

  1. That sounds lovely, I have a free packet of Spaghetti squash seeds, you have inspired me to grow them.

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    1. Excellent! If we have a good summer, or at least a reasonable amount of warmth, you should be well rewarded.

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  2. I think I have given up growing Squashes now. I have had a few tries, but never been very successful. I think my garden doesn't get enough sunshine for them to thrive - which is a shame because I love squashes, and you can normally only buy the Butternut types (and those ghastly pumpkins at Halloween). I agree with you on using the seeds as a snack. most people throw them away, which is such a waste.

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    1. That's a shame, Mark. Mine were in an unshaded corner spot that gets sun and good light for around 8 hours in the summer months. It was only when we had some hot sunshine in August that they finally took off and grew at a fast pace. I wonder if some of the smaller squashes, grown in good OM such as a compost heap, might work for you?

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  3. I'm not keen on squash but this one certainly sounds, and looks, rather enticing! Flighty xx

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    1. Each to their own, Flighty! You grow an excellent selection of veg on your plot and, after all, we should grow what we like to eat! xx

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  4. Sounds very yummy! (And I confess I always threw the seeds away as I didn't even know they were edible) (from Sue )x

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    1. It is, Sue! Next time I'm up at yours, I'll cart one of my huge squashes up with me and cook it for our supper - I think you'll rather enjoy it!! C xxx

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  5. I grew spaghetti squash about three years ago but only ended up with one squash :( However after reading your glowing tribute Caro I think I might be tempted to try again. I did not realise that you could eat young courgette leaves - do they taste like courgette or have their own unique taste? Holding back on the seed sowing here too and planning - snow again today.

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    1. I'll have to let you know about the taste of courgette leaves, Anna. A friend of mine who grew up in Zimbabwe mentioned that the young leaves are harvested for a meal over there. She went all misty eyed at the memory and assured me that they were very good so I feel I need to try for myself! I will, of course, be reporting back on this!!

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  6. Hi Caro, I am resigned to not growing any squash this year, TNG is not a fan and I don't really have the room. But if I end up building some solid trellis for part of the kitchen garden, some sort of trailing squash will become a must... And thank you, I had no idea that young courgette leaves were edible in their own right! Will have to try that.

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    1. I grew one of these squashes up a trellis and it worked a treat, so well worth a try when you have your trellis built. My son is not a fan of squashes either so I usually end up having a baked squash for a solo lunch and save the other half for the following day (or share with a friend). Courgette leaves (the young, soft ones) can be cooked like cabbage or spinach, so I'm told. xx

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  7. My dad always says that spaghetti squash isn't worth eating, but you have persuaded me to give it a proper go myself! Now I just need somewhere to grow it....

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    1. I've tried some quite flavourless spaghetti squash in the past - a bit similar to marrow in their lack of flavour. Once you punch up the flavour with herbs and spices, and add a good dollop of butter, this becomes a really delicious meal. How about growing it up a balcony or windowsill? Check out Vertical Veg for inspiration! (He used to live round the corner from me so I've seen his vertical veg growing in action!)

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Caro x

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