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Squash growing experience

 
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This is my first year growing winter squashes for food so I aim for maximizing the yield. Previous years I grew a few for Halloween decorations so I pulled the plants when I had enough.

Different types of my squashes all produce in a batch mode: 1-2 fruits maturing in July then the second batch show up, usually 2-3 times more because of more vines growing now. I am expecting those to be ready by August.

Will there be a third batch? I don't know but I try my best to get ahead of pests and diseases and I also mulch along the vines to promote roots formation. Hopefully I can get them to produce all the way till first frost.

So I am wondering how squashes are growing in warmer area without frost? If one keeps up picking the mature squashes, will the plant continues to produce year round? Or there is a natural life span then the tip just stops growing?
 
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Good morning May. It sounds like you’ve done a great job in efforts to extend your harvest! I’m growing tromboncino squash for the first time this year and have already gotten two solid harvests. I believe I’ll get two more. One for consuming as summer squash, the other for keeping into winter. It’s also a running squash as you’ve described. I consistently get several harvest from butternut and spaghetti squash. Given your planting zone I see no reason why you shouldn’t get a third harvest.
I’m always looking for new squash  varieties and various tips on growing them. I’ll look forward to reading how the rest of your season goes.
 
May Lotito
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Here is photo of some squashes harvested. Those were planted right after last frost. I kept on planting some more here and there, last few were planted on July 15th. I will see if they can make it to maturity (100 days to maturity, kabocha from pearl).
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Scott Stiller
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100 day varieties in zone 6b. Sounds like a fun gamble! You have some good looking squash there.
 
May Lotito
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Both kabocha seeds germinated, in just 3 days! It could take more than 10 days in spring. That's how I ended up with two dozen squashes in my 100 sq ft squash beds. I direct seeded in late April, waited for a couple weeks, nothing came up, then I planted some more, and some more. After a good rain, they all came up and I didn't remember what I planted!

I saw some older leaves had spots of powdery mildew developing. That's one major threat killing my pumpkins before, they never made it to the first frost.
 
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May Lotito wrote:So I am wondering how squashes are growing in warmer area without frost? If one keeps up picking the mature squashes, will the plant continues to produce year round? Or there is a natural life span then the tip just stops growing?


So, we get sorta frost (although squash do well, my loofahs never get dry and burn), 9b type range, although we're getting colder lately.
I find, like you noticed, that powdery mildew is what limits my production. I reach a point where the vines just sort of poop out. Also, some kinds do better at different times in the season. Spaghetti squash, principally, will start earlier than anything else, produce its squashes, and just die, often very quickly. Then I get the butternut-types going, they might go for months at a time and then they decide to give up against the powdery mildew. The loofahs, I've had go over a year before, and I ripped them out, so who knows how long they would keep on going.
Kabocha, my uncle grows in a 10a type temperature range (frost maybe every 5 years or so), and has similar results- start in the spring, grow during the heat, rip em out and plant corn when their season is done. The plants set their fruit and that seems to be it, I don't think they just keep on growing and producing. I'd love to hear from someone who knows Seminole pumpkins to see what their natural behavior is like in the hotter parts of Florida.
 
May Lotito
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Thanks for sharing Tereza, that's very interesting.
Luffa: can't imagine how much space an one-year old vine going to take over!
Kabocha: not very productive in my case too. I think they got shaded out by other squashes since leaves are small.
Butternut and spaghetti: I know they are common and widely planted. But so for I only tried one each from grocery store and the taste was rather bland. Maybe homegrown ones will have better flavor?
 
Tereza Okava
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May Lotito wrote:
Butternut and spaghetti


Spaghetti squash is kind of like tofu- a very subtle flavor, if you roast it it gets a bit more intense and nutty, but most of the time you'll want some sort of tasty sauce/accompaniment. Butternut seems to vary a lot, it's important to store them to have good flavor (if you eat them right away they'll be really bland). I store all my squash for a good few months before eating.
Good point about the kabocha getting shaded out-- my uncle has lots of land so he just lets them sprawl and he keeps the weeds completely out. But I've seen operations with kabocha climbing, so if you have upward space you can ensure they get good sun (making sure to support the squash, when you get them).
 
May Lotito
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Yes, I plan on growing the new ones vertically. Here a kabocha vine growing along rouge vif d'Etampes, notice the leaves are much smaller.
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May Lotito
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The squash patch is only 100 sq ft, so I plant summer squashes in the middle and let winter squashes sprawl outwards. Mulch vines with compost and woodchips when available.
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Just one galeux d'eysines
Just one galeux d'eysines
 
May Lotito
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I opened two kakai squashes to check the seeds. One 6 lbs squash yielded 1 cup of seeds about 120 g or 4oz, a small one had 80g or 3oz. Average yield per plantis 2-3 fruits, I may get 5 or more by giving the plants lots of care. So the seeds can't really make a significant contribution for food unless one has lots of land. My chickens wouldn't eat the flesh so I tried cooking some for myself. Wasn't very sweet but definitely edible.

One of the kakai seed seemed to be cross pollinated and produced something looked like stripetti. Interesting.
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May Lotito
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My kids wanted a giant pumpkin for Halloween so I got a pack of Dill's Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds from walmart. I didn't expect it to be award winning and would be happy with something like 100 lbs.
First fruit was set when the main vine grew to 8 ft long, ending in just 20 lbs. I thought maybe the plant wasn't big enough to support big pumpkin. When the second one came along, the plant was covering 80 sq feet in area and I removed all the other female flowers. I did everything as recommended, yet this pumpkin stopped growing and turned color quickly, not much bigger than the first one.
I am blaming the seed and probably will pull it when the pumpkin is fully matured.
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Giant pumpkins
Giant pumpkins
 
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I’m having good success growing squash this year, in spite of the summer drought, due to good planning. I dug a 1.25 foot deep (not including the berm) swale above the squash bed, which was really the winter kitchen scraps and some pond-harvested duckweed buried under 1.5 inches of soil. This swale is placed to intercept the flow of ditchwater that tended to go through the property, and previously created an eroding channel. Now that water passively overflows through a hugel bed into a trench around the squash bed and the potato bed, from which point it overflows into a pond. I haphazardly poked seeds into the thin layer of soil, covered the beds with some mulch, which became quite thin, in wilting, and watered everything in. Now my squash plans are huge and producing like crazy. I found several fruits, and there are many flowers. Squash will eat up all the nitrogen you can throw them. It’s kind of amazing.
 
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MY ODE TO WINTER SQUASH..... An ode, from Ancient Greek,  is a type of lyrical stanza. It is an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally.

O.K. I'm not talented enough to make an ode.... but I would if I could..... to winter squash!

To answer your basic question. I'm in high, hot desert country. Stuff starts growing here like crazy in late spring and then stops dead in it's tracks when the temp reaches 95* and doesn't start growing again until it cools down, whenever that happens. Early on I get a few, occasional aphids or powdery mildew which are pretty easy to control. But come August, all my squashes and cucumbers get hit hard with both of them at once and all I can do is to  pull up the plants, throw them in the trashcan and celebrate the glorious bounty that has come my way. Boy, I love growing my own food... even through the trials and tribulations. As bad as they look I leave the pumpkin plants in ground until they are all fully matured.

But here I need to stand up for winter squash!! I have been growing organic, heirloom vegies for 10 years now. I start everything from seed. I only grow heirlooms because they taste so good, the vegies my grandmother fed me, not the awful hybrids you get at your local nursery or garden center that taste like cardboard. They never had to force me to eat my vegies because they were wonderful. I've been growing heirloom spaghetti squash and red Greek squash (similar to butternut)  for years. When first harvested they are so sweet and full of flavor! No need for honey or brown sugar or anything.... but butter. I store them and eat them all winter. As each month passes they lose some of their flavor and sweetness so I try to eat them all in 4-5 months. But they are awesome. I hope you will all try some because you are missing out on something very special. Please pretend I was singing softly to you as you read this.
Debbie

 
May Lotito
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Hi Debbie,
Thanks for sharing, I am now quite interested in trying spaghetti or butternut squashes from farmer's market if I see any. I grew up eating very little winter squashes so I didn't know what to expect.

I grew the following winter squashes this year: sugar pie, kabocha, kakai, giant pumpkin, galeux d'eysines, rouge vif d'Etampes (Cinderella), luffa, acorn squash, long island cheese and a couple mysterious ones. August is the peak for pests and diseases here too. One plant got infested with SVB. I removed about a dozen larvae from stems and stalks, so far it is still going strong.

It's fun growing squashes and I am going to expand my garden for more next year.
 
Debbie Ann
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Well, August is here and the ants are starting to bring lots of aphids to my squashes, cucumbers and a few eggplants. So now I thin the plants out as much as possible. They don't need all those leaves; in fact, they will do just fine with very few leaves at this point. This makes it much easier to spray them. I fill my sprayer with water and mix in biodegradable dish soap which kills a lot of the aphids with 'Greencure' (potassium bicarbonate) which will keep the powdery mildew at bay for awhile longer to let things ripen some more. I'll spray every 4-5 days for a few weeks until it becomes futile.

I already have almost 2 dozen spaghetti squash which is plenty for me to eat this winter and lots more to give away. I don't need any more squash but for now I can still enjoy the squash blossoms. I love to eat stuffed squash blossoms all summer! One of my favorite foods!

And it's time to start my seedlings for my fall/winter garden. Soon I'll need to make room for all my brassicas, fennel, root vegies, etc. These days gardening here is becoming quite the challenge! Are any of you having these issues? Sedona is at the very top of a valley butted up against the mountains. Because of our geography, we don't have one climate here, we have dozens of micro-climates. My yard is one of the hottest. I'm used to the temperature being between 100* and 105* a lot every summer but this is the third year where I'm sometimes getting 113* days. A month ago it was over 110* for 5 straight days. It's getting pretty brutal. Well, we all have to get good at adapting and trying new things!

Note- Most of the farmers here at our farmers market grow hybrids. Very few grow heirlooms.

The best way to garden is to put on a wide brimmed hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other....tell somebody else where to dig! Happy gardening everyone.
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Spaghetti squash just hanging out.
Spaghetti squash just hanging out.
 
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I'm also zone 9 b, N. California.  Unfortunately squash doesn't grow year round. I get a very long growing season though.  I got a very late start this year.  I planted squash seeds in mid May.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I picked squash off that plant one month later.  They produce like crazy. I can pick almost every day.  The production is so heavy, we are sick of squash by fall, as are friends and family. The chickens are always thrilled with it.  I'm not sure when, but come fall they just fizzle out.  The pumpkins and gourdes grow longer, but eventually they do the same.
I'm also experiencing aphids right now.  I'm trying staking and pruning my zucchini this year, and it makes it much easier to deal with.  I just spray them off with water.  It doesn't get rid of them, but keeps them from doing to much damage.  
We are quite lucky, here squash is super easy to grow, amazingly productive, with very few bug, or disease problems.  It's a must grow for sure.
 
May Lotito
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I started taste testing a pumpkin. My kids put one in the freezer and when it was thawed, I found the flesh came out in strands just like those of spaghetti squash. I used them to substitute rice vermicelli and made some Singapore noodles. Basically it is stir-fried rice vermicelli with veggies, meat, egg and curry. I haven't had that for a long time due to the high glycemic index of rice. Pumpkin has a modest GI but low glycemic load, making it healthier for blood glucose control. The noodles came out quite yummy and I made 4 meals out of a 7 lbs pumpkin.
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Pumpkin noodles
Pumpkin noodles
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Pumpkin Singapore-style noodles
Pumpkin Singapore-style noodles
 
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I have a spaghetti squash plant growing in a big black composter that I filled with the best soil and amendments that I could muster. It seems to be doing well and has at least a dozen small squash starting to take shape. My question is, should I be reducing the number of squash in order to direct more resources to fewer squash, or will the plant be able to raise all these babies to maturity? It's located in a full sun location, gets water whenever it wants and has fertility galore in it's soil. Frost may be here in a couple of weeks.
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May Lotito
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That's one lush spaghetti squash you have. In my case, when there're multiple fruits on one vine, usually the first one will continue to grow and others aborted. I don't need to thin fruits. But since you have a short season ahead, maybe nipping the smaller ones would give others a better chance to mature faster?
 
Michael Helmersson
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May Lotito wrote:That's one lush spaghetti squash you have. In my case, when there're multiple fruits on one vine, usually the first one will continue to grow and others aborted. I don't need to thin fruits. But since you have a short season ahead, maybe nipping the smaller ones would give others a better chance to mature faster?



That's about what I was thinking. But we have always been surprised by how quickly the squash go from tiny to fully-grown, so I'm still on the fence. The other thing is, this was intended to be a no-risk, see-what-happens experiment, using seeds that were questionable in terms of viability and a growing area that was not spoken for. I feel paralyzed by indecision and may need a coin toss or a stern directive from you or someone else to get off the fence.
 
May Lotito
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More taste testing:
My kabocha looks a lot like tokyo blue, maybe the seller mislabeled the seeds. Nevertheless, it has the dense meat and sweet chestnut-like texture of many Japanese pumpkins.
I tried different ways of cooking and like kabocha tempura the best. I used a mixture of all purpose flour and Italian style bread crumb for batter. The dish takes just 10 minutes and tastes like sweet potato fries.
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Kabocha tempura
Kabocha tempura
 
May Lotito
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The older leaves of squashes started to die and dried up. I checked the stems of the oldest squashes and many already turned corky. My single galeux d'eysines has 8 fruits and they are all heavy and tip over with the stem on the under side. Moisture and soil contact causes the stem and some surface to rot. I want to let the pumpkin cure some more but how do I stop the rotting? It seems the rotting hasn't gone deep inside. So if I remove the mushy tissue and sanitize the wound will the squash heal?
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Rotting surface
Rotting surface
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Pop the squash up from touching the ground
Pop the squash up from touching the ground
 
May Lotito
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Group picture of my squashes, there are about 40 more growing
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May, probably best to use the squash with soft spots right away, I think the rot is more likely to spread than to heal after the squash is off the vine.
 
May Lotito
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Mk Neal wrote:May, probably best to use the squash with soft spots right away, I think the rot is more likely to spread than to heal after the squash is off the vine.



Thanks for reminding. I have cut it up and made creamy soups with diced onion and ham. So yummy!  This one weights 35 lbs, and another galeux d'eysines pumpkin weighs 27 lbs. The one and only plant produces 8 fruits so that's over 200 lbs of pumpkins!
 
May Lotito
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Fall is around the corner. Some squashes had stopped growing and succumbed to bugs and mildew quickly. I removed the pumpkins and acorn squashes to make room for fall crops.

Galeux d'eysines is coming to the end with old leaves dying. I let the fruits mature as long as possible and stop watering and fertilizing.

Kakai and Cinderella pumpkins are still going strong, keep flowering and growing new fruits. Whole plants are turning lighter in color though, a sign of nutrient deficiency. I gave them some liquid fertilizer(chicken poops, wood ash, sunchock tea) for a final boost.

Some other squashes planted in june or july have the first crop maturing. There is still enough time for those (long island cheese, butternut and kabocha).
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Galeux d'eysines
Galeux d'eysines
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cucumber beetle protection
cucumber beetle protection
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Cinderella pumpkin growing non-stop
Cinderella pumpkin growing non-stop
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New things to try next year
New things to try next year
 
Michael Helmersson
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Michael Helmersson wrote:I have a spaghetti squash plant growing in a big black composter that I filled with the best soil and amendments that I could muster. It seems to be doing well and has at least a dozen small squash starting to take shape. My question is, should I be reducing the number of squash in order to direct more resources to fewer squash, or will the plant be able to raise all these babies to maturity? It's located in a full sun location, gets water whenever it wants and has fertility galore in it's soil. Frost may be here in a couple of weeks.



We harvested all of our squash a few days ago and the results were interesting. The composter filled with goodness produced about 20 pounds and our other bed produced about 30 pounds. The composter became very needy once summer heat and drought kicked in. Regular watering and occasional shading was required to keep it from being overly sad. The other bed was entirely unplanned, unwatered, had less sunlight and was built on a pile of fresh compostables accumulated over the winter. I think I'll be going with the less effort approach next year.

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May Lotito
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Michael Helmersson wrote:The other bed was entirely unplanned, unwatered, had less sunlight and was built on a pile of fresh compostables accumulated over the winter. I think I'll be going with the less effort approach next year.



Cute dogs!

The yield is quite impressive for the unattended bed! I would go with the easy way too. Maybe putting a liner over the black composter will reduce the temperature? Like a big card board box or burlap wrapping? It is still a very nice container.

I will have to pull the rest of my squash vines shortly. There are enormous amount of squash bugs hiding in the grass underneath.
 
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May Lotito wrote:

Michael Helmersson wrote:The other bed was entirely unplanned, unwatered, had less sunlight and was built on a pile of fresh compostables accumulated over the winter. I think I'll be going with the less effort approach next year.



Cute dogs! And they're always present for harvesting. Every item harvested has a "Dog tax".

The yield is quite impressive for the unattended bed! I would go with the easy way too. Maybe putting a liner over the black composter will reduce the temperature? Like a big card board box or burlap wrapping? It is still a very nice container. Yes, I was thinking that too, unless I come up with something that wants the heat and dry soil.

I will have to pull the rest of my squash vines shortly. There are enormous amount of squash bugs hiding in the grass underneath.

Be careful!
 
May Lotito
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Here are my harvest this year; I ate most of the kabocha already, it's my favorite. The last kabocha planted on july 15th has one fruit the size of apple right now. Hopefully it will make it before frost.

I didn't weigh all of them but the top 3 are 47, 42 and 37 lbs. I suspect the biggest Cinderella is a hybrid, being crossed with the big max pumpkin as it doesn't have the cha flat shape.

Total failure this year is mini watermelon. It has small leaves and got shaded out quickly. Three other squashes planted in poor soil also struggled and produced nothing.

We still have about one month of warm days left so I sow more squash seeds. Those are grown as trap plants to get rid of remaining squash bugs.
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I am curious how kakai flesh compares to kabocha. Has anyone had both? I love the kabocha for soup and roasting, but the seeds have thick hulls. If there is an easy way to remove the hulls (not one at a time) I don't know it, so I want to try "hulless" varieties without losing delicious flesh. Thank you.
 
May Lotito
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Barbara Kochan wrote:I am curious how kakai flesh compares to kabocha. Has anyone had both? I love the kabocha for soup and roasting, but the seeds have thick hulls. If there is an easy way to remove the hulls (not one at a time) I don't know it, so I want to try "hulless" varieties without losing delicious flesh. Thank you.



Yes I have both. Kakai flesh is more stringy and bland. I actually don't have much appetite eating it so it just goes back to the soil. Also I find eating kakai seeds alone, roasted or not leaves a sticky substance on my teeth which is quite unpleasant. Now I put the seeds in rice when I steam rice.

I love kabocha! They are so dense and sweet and flavorful. I ate them all by Oct then I bought some buttercup squashes from the store. So watery and mild compared to kabocha.

If you have room, try both. I am going to grow 2 kakai and 20 kabocha this year.
 
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Thank you ☺️
 
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May Lotito wrote:I started taste testing a pumpkin. My kids put one in the freezer and when it was thawed, I found the flesh came out in strands just like those of spaghetti squash. I used them to substitute rice vermicelli and made some Singapore noodles. Basically it is stir-fried rice vermicelli with veggies, meat, egg and curry. I haven't had that for a long time due to the high glycemic index of rice. Pumpkin has a modest GI but low glycemic load, making it healthier for blood glucose control. The noodles came out quite yummy and I made 4 meals out of a 7 lbs pumpkin.



May, which pumpkin variety came out of the freezer this way?
We eat lots of spagetti squash for the same reasons of moderating  blood sugar, these pumpkin noodles sounds like good option.
 
May Lotito
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William Bronson wrote:

May, which pumpkin variety came out of the freezer this way?
We eat lots of spagetti squash for the same reasons of moderating  blood sugar, these pumpkin noodles sounds like good option.



It was a mystery squash, very likely a stripetti.  Now I take a quicker approach to get the strands out for stir frying: cut the squash into quarters and microwave for a few minutes. That's enough to loose the strands up while keeping the crunchy texture. It has a great flavor compared to other stringy squashes.

Since stripetti is a hybrid, I probably won't get the same squashes from seeds saved and need to order new ones.

 
May Lotito
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I still don't like the taste of kakai so I look for other varieties for seed eating. The best candidate is galeux d'eysines: big seed, thin husk, great flavor and possibility for mass processing.

Here is how I do it in a large scale:

After I wash the seeds clean and dry for one day, the water content is still high. I put the seeds in preheated oven then the seeds start popping open. Both husk and kernels split into halves and the kernels are partially roasted too. I can peel the half kennel off the attached husk easily one by one to eat or wait till the kernels dry up more to be separated from the husks with agitation.

 
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May Lotito wrote:My kids wanted a giant pumpkin for Halloween so I got a pack of Dill's Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds from walmart. I didn't expect it to be award winning and would be happy with something like 100 lbs.
First fruit was set when the main vine grew to 8 ft long, ending in just 20 lbs. I thought maybe the plant wasn't big enough to support big pumpkin. When the second one came along, the plant was covering 80 sq feet in area and I removed all the other female flowers. I did everything as recommended, yet this pumpkin stopped growing and turned color quickly, not much bigger than the first one.
I am blaming the seed and probably will pull it when the pumpkin is fully matured.



They're so beautiful, looks like I would try this in next winter.
 
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Last Winter I was visiting Puerto Rico and bought a quarter of a squash in a grocery store to try it. I roasted it and it was delicious, sort of like a butternut flavor. I decide to keep some seed to see if they would grow in the mainland zone 6 in Shenandoah County Va.  Towards the latter part of March, I planted two seeds in a mulch bed to see what happened. It grew and it took time to get flowers and squashes. As soon as we got a freeze warning I harvested the three squashes. I got 34 lbs of squash out of two seeds.  Did not water, fertilize or nothing but train the vines out of the way.  It was a Cucurbita Moschata of a locally grown variety called Soler. They kept well, I roasted the last one in February. Plus we made "pumpkin puree" and froze it to use in baking.
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May Lotito
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Last year my squashes were hit hard by the squash bugs later in the season, when the second generation bugs started laying eggs the numbers simply exploded.

This year I am taking action early, trying to cut off the life cycle of overwintering bugs ( first generation). They started laying eggs in early June and I checked for eggs daily since June 13th and took note of numbers of adults and egg clusters destroyed.

Finding and crushing eggs are too time consuming so I prefer finding and killing the adults, since each female can lay up to 250 eggs over a long time. The most effective way is to water near the base of squash plant in mid day when it's hot and dry. Within seconds bugs start to crawl out of hiding spots and climb up the stems and leaves.  Watering in the cool morning works too, but the bugs tend to walk on the ground. Either way is easier than bending down and flipping every single leaf.

In total I killed around 100 adults and a couple thousand eggs (avg 20 eggs per cluster), and a few dozen nymphs. I guess I finally got the bugs under control and I can reduce the task for egg checking now. Hopefully I won't have to this again next year.
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