Squashes are some of the most rewarding vegetables to grow. There are many varieties to choose from and they’re easy to raise from seed, as long as they’re given a rich soil and plenty of sun and water. They’re ideal for using in soups and stews, and some are excellent roasted or fried.
Unlike summer squashes, such as courgettes and patty pans, which are best eaten immature and fresh, and don’t store, winter squashes have harder skins and can be stored over winter.
Sow winter squash from seed in April or May, and plant out when all risks of frost have passed, in a sunny spot. Be careful when you plant them out as slugs and snails love them. Plant them out when they’re big enough to withstand a few nibbles, or use a slug and snail deterrent, such as wool pellets. Give them plenty of room as they can sprawl, and incorporate plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure when planting.
Leave the fruits on the plant for as long as you can in autumn. When they’re ripe, they should sound hollow when tapped and the stem should be corky. Use secateurs to harvest before the first frosts, leaving as much of the stem on each fruit as possible – don’t use the stalk as a handle. Once harvested, leave the squashes for up to 10 days to allow their skins to harden further. They can then be stored for several months in a cool, dark, frost-free place, and eaten during winter.
Squash ‘Crown Prince’
‘Crown Prince’ is an old variety that’s still popular for its attractive, large, blue-grey fruits with bright orange flesh and sweet, nutty flavour. The fruits can store for up to three months after harvesting. Great for a variety of culinary uses.
Squash ‘Turk’s Turban’
‘Turk’s Turban’ has a great colour and distinctive shape, making it a popular choice for ornamental autumn displays. The flesh is sweet and perfect for roasting and baking. The skin of this variety is not edible.
‘Kabocha’ squash (Japanese winter pumpkin) bears small fruits with dark green skin and bright yellow-orange flesh. It’s perfect for using in soups or roasting and is delicious stuffed.
The pear-shaped fruits of ‘Uchiki-Kuri’ are small with bright orange skin and butter-yellow flesh. They have a distinctive chestnut flavour and are perfect for roasting and baking – both with and without the skin.
Squash ‘Sweet Dumpling’
The highly ornamental ‘Sweet Dumpling’ has an excellent flavour. Its flesh is ideal for roasting and using in soups and pies.
Squash ‘Golden Hubbard’
The fruits of ‘Golden Hubbard’ are small, with finely grained skin. They have light-coloured flesh with a good flavour. Perfect for freezing and using in soups, ‘Golden Hubbard’ also stores well.
‘Harlequin’ bears distinctive gold and yellow fruits. They have high sugar levels, making them perfect for pan frying – the flesh caramelises beautifully.
Acorn squash takes its name from its shape, which some say resembles an upside-down acorn with an undersized cap. The skin is a rich dark green and the bright orange flesh has a sweet, nutty flavour. It’s ideal for roasting and stuffing.
Squash ‘Golden Nugget’
‘Golden Nugget’ has grapefruit-sized fruits. They have a salmon-coloured, ridged, dull skin, and sweet, buttery flesh. Bake whole or halved, and puree the flesh into soups and pies.
‘Hooligan’ has small fruits, around 8cm across. They have orange and white mottled skin and orange-yellow flesh, which has a good flavour. They’re well suited for baking and pureeing, or stuffing.