'Spaghetti squash' is a unique variety whose creamy coloured flesh separates into spaghetti-like strands once cooked. Mild, sweet and nutty, this squash is delicious roasted and topped with a little butter or added to sauces and salads.
When cooked, the squash replicates a similar texture to spaghetti or noodles, it offers as a healthy gluten free alternative to pasta and a great way pack more nutrients into your diet. Simply cut in half and roast in the oven with some added olive oil and herbs.
This winter squash is relatively easy to grow, the plants need rich garden soil and at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Seed planting should be delayed until the soil has warmed completely with plantings as late as early July possible.
Growing on small to medium sized trailing vines, which each produce five or six pale yellow, oblong fruits which weigh around 1.5 Kg (3 lbs).
Despite the name 'winter squash', spaghetti squash is not grown in winter. It is typically harvested in mid to late summer when the fruits are mature and into autumn before the first winter frosts. The thicker rinds allow you to store them for several months in a cool, dry place, away from light and eaten during the winter months.
Summer squash, such as cucumbers and courgettes are harvested early when the rinds are still thin. Unlike winter squash, they can only be stored for a week or two.
Also called vegetable spaghetti, for the longest spaghetti-like strands, halve the squash crosswise (rather than lengthwise), since the strands form a circular pattern. Be careful, if you cook Spaghetti Squash whole, be sure to pierce the skin in several places with a fork or a small knife so that the steam can escape.
Remove seeds and roast. Scrape out the strands with a fork and dress with butter or pasta sauce. Serve the 'spaghetti' with chicken parmesan meatballs, toss with red sauce and grated cheese, or use instead of rice noodles in Asian-style dishes.
The seeds can be roasted, similar to pumpkin seeds.
Prepare the Site:
Choose a sunny, sheltered spot with moisture retentive, humus rich soil. Improve the soil by digging in some well-rotted manure or compost. The simplest way is to dig a hole 30cm (12in) deep and 45cm (18in) across and fill it with well rotted compost or manure. Cover with a 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) layer of soil to make a raised mound that will provide drainage along with a rich source of nutrients. Left to their own devices the plants will trail for several feet in all directions. Ideally each plant needs 120cm square (4ft square) in order to spread and avoid competing with nearby plants. (Alternatively you can grow them in large containers).
Sowing: Sow indoors in pots April to June or sow direct from mid May to early July.
A minimum temperature of 20°C (68°F) will be needed for germination. If grown entirely in a heated greenhouse seed can be sown in situ in late winter, or early spring for transplanting to a cloche or cold frame. If you do not have any glass, then delay sowing until late spring to avoid damage from heavy frost.
Fill 7.5cm (3in) pots with compost and firm gently. Sow seed on its side, not flat to ensure reliable germination. Sow 12mm (½in) deep and cover. (You may choose to sow two seeds per pot, and remove the weaker seedling later; the strongest plants are kept.) Label, water and put in a propagator or on a windowsill.
Germination should take place 10 to 14 days later. If temperatures are higher it may only be 4 to 6 days. After germination the young plants will grow very quickly and will need repotting almost at once. When roots begin to show through the bottom of the pot, transplant to a 12.5cm (5in) container. Keep barely moist to prevent stems from rotting and protect from strong sunlight with a sheet of newspaper.
Hardened off before planting outside, around late May/early June and all danger of frost has passed. Plant out with 120cm (48in) between plants, providing good air circulation to avoid mildew. Protect seedlings from slugs.
Sowing directly outdoors:
Early sowing outdoors is rarely of much benefit as the seeds may not germinate if the soil is too cold, or cold temperatures may damage young plants.
Sow two or three seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep on their edges under cloches or glass jars with 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) between plants. Remove the weaker seedlings later.
Planting flowers nearby to attract bees can help with squash pollination. Marigolds and nasturtiums may help to repel many common squash plant pests.
Companion plants include sweetcorn, beans, lettuce, peas, pumpkin, radish and melons. Avoid planting potatoes or any Brassica species near your squash. These vegetables are heavy feeders. They will compete with your squash for nutrients making it difficult for them to grow well.
Hoe gently to keep the weeds down and do not let the plants dry out. Plenty of water is essential, especially when the plants are in flower and when the fruits have started to swell. Avoid splashing water on the stems of the young plants. Apply a mulch of about 12mm (1in) deep of grass cuttings or compost after watering. This helps conserve soil moisture and keeps the weeds down.
If you dig in plenty of manure before planting, additional feeding is unnecessary on heavy, fertile soil. On sandy or light soil, regular liquid feed will help boost production.
Plants under glass should be hand pollinated. The plants are monoecious, with male and female flowers on the same plant. Female flowers are shorter and are distinguished by the swelling below the bloom. This round growth turns into the squash if the flower is successfully pollinated.
Male flowers have a prominent central core, bearing yellow pollen. The male flower is first to appear and the female flowers will follow. To hand pollinate, remove the petals from a male flower; push the core into the centre of the female flower. For a high success rate, use a different male for each female flower.
Harvesting: 100 days
Unlike summer squashes, such as courgettes and marrows, it pays to let winter squashes ripen thoroughly. Harvest spaghetti squash before the first winter frost. It takes approximately 100 days to maturity, you can also keep track by estimating 40 to 50 days after the yellow squash blossoms have bloomed.
Ripe spaghetti squash is ripe when the skin looks dull and will have a matte, non-shiny look when it is ready to pick. If the skin of the squash is shiny, it is a sign that it is unripe and needs more time to ripen in the garden. A little patience will be rewarded.
The skin of the squash is also a good indication of when it is ready for harvesting. It will go from a soft creamy white to a brilliant yellow. Look for an even golden yellow colour, if there is uneven coloring on the skin of the squash such as green spots or streaks, it is unripe.
You can test the rind for ripeness by gently pressing your fingernail into it. If you leave a mark or puncture the skin, the squash needs more time before harvesting. Ripe winter squash has a hard, tough rind and is not easy to mark or puncture with a fingernail.
Use a sharp knife or secateurs to sever the fruit from the plant leaving a short stem, do not pull them off. Harvest all fruits before heavy frost, and they can be stored indoors at 10°C for several months.
When you determine it is the right time to pick the spaghetti squash, use clean disinfected shears or pruners and cut the stem 2 to 3 inches above the squash. It is important to leave a stem on the fruit, or else the squash can be more susceptible to mold or start rotting quickly. Let the squash dry or cure for a week or two in a sunny, dry location before you store it. Moisture can quickly spoil winter squash. At room temperature, around 18 to 22°C (65 to 70°F) the squash will store for 1 month.
To prepare the winter squash for longer-term storage, find a location that is cool, dry, and dark. Make sure that the fruits are stored in a single layer and not touching each other. A cool temperature range between 10 to 15°C (50 to 60°F) is ideal, and the squashes will store for 3 to 6 months. Check every week for any signs of rotting, softness or mold.
Varieties within the Cucurbita pepo species will crossbreed easily, so if planning on saving seed from any of the squash included in this species, be sure to only grow one variety within this species, at a time.
When growing different squash varieties within a species, a separation distance of 1.5 to 2 miles (2.4 to 3.2 km) needs to be maintained, in order to prevent cross-pollination and seed contamination. If there are landscape barriers in place, this distance may be shortened a little.
By the time the fruit has been cured, the seeds are mature. Cut open, remove the pulp and seeds, and rinse off the pulp. Put the mixture in a bowl of water to remove the remaining pulp, the good seeds will sink. Remove the good seeds and spread them out to dry for 2 to 3 weeks, stirring them at times to make sure they dry completely. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place, they will remain viable for up to 4 years.
Often referred to as a Pumpkin, it is a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae (which also includes gourds). Pumpkin seeds are known as pepitas.
The common name of pumpkin can refer to cultivars of any one of the species Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, and Cucurbita moschata. The fruit of which can range in size from less than 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) to over 1,000 pounds (453.59 kilograms).
The word originates from the word pepon, which is Greek for 'large melon'. The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed that to the word we use today, 'pumpkin'.
The origin of pumpkins is not definitively known, although they are thought to have originated in North America, the oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 B.C., were actually found in Mexico.
Traditionally, Butternut is one of the main squash types used to make pumpkin pie.
The word squash is a shortening of the Narraganset (native American Indian) word ‘asquutasquash’ meaning ‘green things that may be eaten raw’. Pumpkins tend to have the thicker rind while squashes have a denser, sweeter flesh.
The cucurbits left their New World home in the middle of the 16th century and were dispersed around the world. In 1936, the spaghetti squash appeared in the pages of the Burpee Seed Company catalogue.
According to the best guesses of its origin story, the source material for vegetable spaghetti came from Manchurian (China) farmers who had developed the plant as a fodder crop around 1850. In 1934, the Sakata Seed Company in Japan acquired some seed and offered wholesale lots to seed retailers around the world. Burpee added vegetable spaghetti in 1936 and it had some popularity during the Victory Garden days of World War II, but it never really caught on.
In 1960, Sakata reintroduced the seed line to the market. In 1964 the English seed company Thompson and Morgan, which had a fairly wide American distribution of catalogues, featured the plant prominently. The counter-culture movement was in full swing across the nation and the hippies in California started growing the plant as a healthier alternative than traditional spaghetti. By the early 1970’s the Green Revolution and the back-to-the-land movement exploded across America and by 1975 it was being promoted and grown in quantities that made it available to grocers. By 1980 it had become mainstream.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 5 grams Average Seed Count 40 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 7 to 8 seeds per gram Common Name Winter Squash Other Common Names Vegetable spaghetti Family Cucurbitaceae Genus Cucurbita Species pepo Cultivar Spaghetti Squash Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Flowers Bright yellow flowers Natural Flower Time Summer Fruit Pale yellow, oblong fruits of 20 to 25cm (8 to 10in) Spread Small to medium sized trailing vines Position Choose a sunny, sheltered spot Soil Moisture retentive, humus rich soil. Time to Sow Sow indoors in pots April to June or sow direct from mid May to early June. Germination Germination of seeds is about 2 weeks Harvest Use pruning shears or a sharp knife and leave 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) of stem Time to Harvest Honey Bear can be sown and harvested in about 100 days.