Pumping Pumpkin: winter squash

Here at Incredible Lambeth we’re pumping pumpkin. First, we have a competition at our AGM/harvest feast on 20th October – put it in your diary and get growing. Watch this space for more info. Second, storing squash is a great way of harvesting summer sunshine – vitamins, nutrition and comfort food carbs through the dark months.

7-step quick guide to growing squash:

  1.  sow indoors April/May and harden off in May (put pots outside in daytime) and plant out end May/beginning June ensuring all risk of frost has passed. Or sow direct into soil at the end of May. Plants need a sunny spot.
  2. enrich the planting hole with nitrogen-rich material: well-rotted manure, comfrey pellets or seaweed meal, for example.
  3. make sure you have space for your plant to scramble. Once it gets going it’ll be everywhere and you don’t want to stepping on the flowers and baby fruits
  4. give the leaves a foliar feed at least once week. Ideally use a liquid seaweed  extract (good range of nutrients) diluted in water and spray with a watering can.
  5. plant flowers nearby to attract pollinators, or you can pollinate the female flowers with the males yourself (then eat the male flowers).
  6. keep watering around the base of the plant through the season.
  7. once the fruit is ready, cut it from the vine leaving a little topknot of a stem and let it ‘cure’ in the sunshine for a few days before storing in a cool, dry place.

What variety will you grow? If you’ve come along to one of our recent events here are some notes on the squash seed varieties we’re giving away – thanks to South London Master Gardeners for their expertise in paper-pot-making-seed-sowing activities.

SQUASH AUTUMN CROWN F1
A brand new variety specially bred for the UK climate and with a very distinct flavour of melon. Very moreish and ideal for winter use. One of the best keepers for eating fresh or cooked.

SQUASH BUFFY
A new mini Winter Squash with a shelf life of 6-8 months. Fruit has a beige or buttery coloured skin and is almost round. Excellent sweet flesh which can, at a pinch, be an ornament too. Recommended.

SQUASH RED KURI
Probably the best of the Potimarron chestnut flavoured types. Exceeding juicy butterscotch coloured flesh with butterscotch seeds and an excellent keeper. The Queen of the Potimarrons. Just don’t miss it. Seed is scarce this year.

SQUASH TENESSEE SWEET POTATO
First listed in 1847. Excellent quality with dryish flesh. An early variety which does well in cool weather. 95-100 days from transplanting.

WINTER BUTTERNUT SQUASH COBNUT
Specially bred for UK conditions, this supermarket variety is utterly reliable with rich, mango orange flesh and a good keeping quality and makes an absolutely delicious thick soup if used with sweetcorn.

We also have climbing French bean, Barlotto Lingua di Fuoco (‘fire tongue’ because of the ‘flamed’ red speckled pods and beans).  This is a drying bean – more winter storing of sunshine with valuable protein too.

Seeds from Plants of Distinction – a really fine selection of squash varieties in particular.

Geek facts: winter squash are from either the species Cucurbita moschata or C. maxima. ‘Squash’ comes from  language native to the east coast of USA, ‘askutasquash’ meaning ‘a green thing eaten raw’ – but squash come in grey, orange, red, green, yellow and don’t eat them raw.

What variety will you grow? Share your growing tips, recipes and pics with a comment here! Also we need your input on competition categories – biggest (obviously), cutest, most spookily carved, best pie/muffin, weirdest

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