Spring 2013 - Let’s Talk About Squash!
Crookneck, straightneck, patty pan and zucchini are all great squash options to plant in the spring for summer harvest. You can also plant winter varieties at the same time for two bountiful seasons of fresh squash.
Create a Calendar + Journal
March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to start your plan for April planting. Summer squash will be ready in 60 days, and winter varieties will take closer to 95 days. Create a family calendar with key tasks and leave space to journal as you go. This will help improve your green thumb and make lasting memories. Be sure to take photos!
Watch Out for Pests
You need to be aware of two common pests. Squash Bugs, which are grayish brown with a flat, shield-shaped back, should be removed and dropped in soapy water. Squash Borers, orange and black moth-like bugs, crawl into the base of the stem and can kill the plant. Watch for sawdust-like droppings around the stem. Remove the borer by slitting the side. If eggs are spotted on stems or under leaves, gently remove and destroy them by rubbing the eggs between your fingers.
Naturally repel pests by planting radishes, nasturtiums and marigolds near summer and winter squash varieties.
Harvest & Enjoy!
Harvest summer squash when they are 6 to 8 inches long and the base is 4 to 5 inches around. Squash should be cut off the vine, leaving some of the stem on the fruit. Pulling the fruit may damage the stem.
If you want to pick them earlier or later, no problem! Just try not to skip more than three days. Baby squash are best for steaming, and fully mature squash are better for baking.
Tips from Farmer Lisa
Lisa Sluder, mother of two and farmer at Raleigh City Farm, loves to give gardening advice, and she is a wealth of information. Below are her top tips for success with squash.
- Plant summer and winter squash on April 15 (after the last freeze)
- 2 plants are adequate for a family of four - sow 4 to 6 seeds; thin to the 2 strongest
- Plant directly in the ground on a hill or mound of dirt with 2 ft. between plants
- Leave 3 ft. between rows of summer squash; 6 ft. between rows of winter squash
- Squash are sun lovers and need moist (not soggy) soil
- Water the soil (not the foliage) to prevent mildew
- Add a layer of mulch (hay, straw or even chopped leaves will work) around the roots once the plant is established
- Expect to harvest 2 to 5 squash off each plant every other day for 6 to 8 weeks
- Plan to wear gloves and long sleeves because the leaves can be prickly
Visit the Farm
Join Farmer Lisa for a tour or volunteer workday. She schedules children’s group visits and service projects throughout the year. They also sell seasonal produce. Check details at RaleighCityFarm.org or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Get the Scoop!
Watch for a summer update on which flowers to pick, when to harvest, and some serving suggestions for the blossoms and the seeds. Follow along via our blogs and WakeMed Children’s Facebook page for lots of healthy information between issues of Families First.
Any Way You Like
- Bake It – Use up extra squash by baking into casseroles to freeze
- Grate It – Add to pancakes, muffins, breads and cakes
- Stuff It – Hollow and fill with lean meat; use it as a boat for any baked side dish
- Slice It – Slice or julienne and use as a topping for salads
- Dip it – Slice and pair with low-fat ranch dressing or hummus
- Grill It – Cut into length-wise strips and place directly on the grill
- Store It – Store summer squash a couple days on the counter or a week in the refrigerator
- Freeze It – Frozen squash can be a bit mushy and is best for baking or soups
- Give It – Share your harvest! It’s a great reason to see your neighbors.
“Remember to offer new foods many times as kids do not always like foods the first time around,” said Amy Bowen, WakeMed dietitian. “In fact, it may take up to a dozen times for a child to accept a new food.”
Squash make a great addition to your daily meals.
Bowen lists a few benefits below:
- Low in calories (20 calories in ½ cup)
- Good source of vitamin C (½ cup provides 15 percent of the daily recommended amount)
- Provide vitamin A (improves vision), dietary fiber and potassium
Grow & Learn
Think of ways to incorporate other lessons around squash. Teach your little ones how to pronounce and spell it. Measure them, weigh them and count them as they grow. The most important tip from all the experts? Let the kids help!
Put On Your Chef Apron
Chef Chad McIntyre, father of two girls and owner of Market Restaurant in Raleigh, says the sky is the limit when it comes to squash. For a quick, makeahead crowd pleaser, he recommends a dish that doesn’t require 10 trips to the store for special ingredients. Best of all, it just takes six easy steps.
Squash Picnic Salad
- Wash and cut 6 to 8 crookneck or straightneck squash in long slices to fit on an oven sheet or grill rack.
- Spread squash on a towel and sprinkle with a teaspoon or two of salt.*
- While salt weeps water out of squash, cook 4 servings of wild rice or quinoa (cool and chill).
- Lightly dab the water off squash and sprinkle with black pepper.
- Bake at 425ºF or grill for 10 minutes or until lightly browned (don’t overcook).
- Toss chilled rice or quinoa with squash, balsamic vinegar, and a light salad-grade oil (to taste) with your choice of herbs and other veggies.
Easily serves 4 or more. Vegetarian & Gluten Free
Make a Rainbow Salad! – “You can get creative with what you’ve got,” said Chef McIntyre. “Make it as colorful as you can and play around with different flavors.” Toss in tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and a little feta cheese. Or try cilantro and peppers with lemon or lime juice instead of vinegar.
Chef McIntyre prefers kosher salt for flavor and says it’s easier to use less because you can see the granules. You’ll be adding vinegar later so don’t overdo it. Go easy and use just a little salt to pull the water out of the squash to help prevent a mushy texture. The dish is best when the squash are a little crunchy.