Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cucurbita moschata-some winter squashes

We bring in wagons full of squash and pumpkins every fall. Our 2009 yield is especially heavy. The seeds were planted in Jordan's field, one of the best on the farm. The vines stayed healthy throughout the growing season, producing larger than usual fruit. Pollination was excellent thanks to plenty of honey bees from McCormack Apiaries.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving was moving day, transferring the squashes...approx. 50 bushel bins plus some big ones on the floor...from the greenhouse to the basement of the farmhouse. To save energy, the greenhouse furnace has been turned off.

Cucurbita moschata have solid stems and vines. They have the longest storage potential of all squashes. Mature, disease-free fruits will keep all winter. Flesh is moist and bright orange, probably the smoothest of all squashes.

Butternut squash is probably the most common variety. The seeds are in the bulb at the blossom end. The cylindrical part next to the stem is solid squash. Because its tan skin is so smooth, many people peel it rather than baking it in the skin. A y-peeler simplifies this task. If you don't own one of these kitchen gadgets, add it to your Christmas wish list.

This butternut was harvested in 2006, stored in our basement, then displayed in Fall, 2007, as an example of the long storage potential of squash. Squash should not be refrigerated; ideal storage is 50-55 degrees, 50-75% humidity and good air circulation. Check each fruit regularly, and if you notice a blemish, just remove it and bake the squash.

Neck pumpkins are large butternuts, same beautiful tan skin and same moist orange flesh. It was served at the 54th Annual Farm-City Banquet, a meal prepared by Big Knob Grange using meat, vegetables and fruit produced in Beaver County. Do not be frightened by the size. One squash lover reports the he cuts off the amount he wants to use, covers the end tightly with plastic wrap, and stores what remains in a cool place. He continues this over about a month, until it is consumed.
Long Island Cheese is another Cucurbita moschata. A 13.5 pound beauty fell down the steps while unloading from Beaver Farmers' Market on Saturday, so I cut it in half, removed the seeds and strings, and baked it. The result is 5 quarts of deep orange squash...perhaps destined to be soup.
Pumpkins and squash are eaten by many people throughout the Americas. One customer asked for a pumpkin like they grow on her island. La Estrella, our newest squash, seems to be the one she wanted. She and her sister told us to "keep growing this one because you got it right." They eat it as a vegetable or make soup. Developed by Dr. Don Maynard at the University of Florida, it can be called Calabash, Auyama, Winter Calabasa, Ayote, Calabaza, Zapallo or Latino Pumpkin. Its green and tan marbled skin holds a very dense orange squash. When choosing La Estrella it is easy to find one that feels heavy for its size. Our squash and many other products can be found at:
Beaver Farmers' Market
Saturdays, 10 am - 1 pm
December 5, 12, 19, 2009
Courthouse parking lot @ 4th & Market Streets
Fresh evergreen wreaths, apples, baked goods, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cider, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard, onions, potatoes, spinach, swiss chard, winter squash, turnips.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fall on the farm

The lawn was carpeted with golden leaves. Everything both outdoors and indoors glowed in the early morning sunlight. We had time to enjoy the gorgeous fall colors after a freeze on Monday morning, October 19, ended the growing season for tomatoes (below) and other sensitive crops.

Only one field remains green and growing after a frost. The cole crops, i.e. cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, are still being harvested and offered at market.

The greenhouse is filled with winter squash. They need fairly high temperatures for a short time to cure. The furnace keeps them from freezing. Even on a rainy day we can wash and pack them for market. In the greenhouse photo below, neck pumpkins are in the foreground; Long Island cheese, Red Warty Thing, Jarrahdale, and LaEstrella in the middle; next are deep orange pie pumpkins; barely visible in the back are blue and green hubbards and some hard-shell gourds.

Our winter squash display at Ambridge Farmers' Market above, left to right: buttercup, butternut, acorn, festival, blue kuri, red kuri, vegetable spaghetti, and hi-beta gold. On and under the picnic benches below are larger squash types. All of these are both decorative and edible. Use them to brighten the kitchen counter or your dining table until Thanksgiving. Then bake them following the recipes on this blog.

Wish I had counted Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins from the start of harvest. From mid-September, shiny bright orange orbs filled many grassy areas. By mid-October, we had about 200 left. They were nearly all gone by Halloween. We carved 14 that could not be sold. Some had scars from deer nibbling them. Some were top heavy, so we cut off the stems, turned them upside-down and carved them. Despite these flaws, they looked pretty good. See the scar on the left cheek of this one?