Winter squash are a mixture of three species, Cucurbita pepo, C. maxima and C. moschate. They are grouped together because of their culinary use and need a long, sunny season of about four to five months for the fruit to mature. The fruit is hard-skinned and can be stored for many months after the harvest for winter eating. Almost all winter squash have longer, more vigorous vines than summer squash, which include zucchini and marrows, and are harvested and eaten when tender and young.
Planning the crop
Pumpkins and winter squash require a well-enriched and well-drained soil in an open, sunny spot. Many varieties have large, handsome leaves and golden flowers on scrambling vines, which can spread and occupy a great deal of space. In smaller gardens, help vines to climb along a fence or over a trellis or shed. These vegetables are heavy feeders – the top of a compost heap is an ideal growing site for them.
How many to grow- This depends on how much space can be spared, but three different varieties would feed a family through winter.
Varieties- A very large number of varieties are available – the best eating varieties are listed here. All have their own distinctive appearance and excellent eating qualities. Maturation times are approximate from sowing to harvest.
Buttercup- The fruits have a distinct button, are dark green striped with grey and weigh up to 2 kg; the flesh is thick, rich orange, fine textured and very sweet; matures in 105 days.
Jarrahdale- An excellent, long-keeping variety with grey skin and very dry, thick, sweet flesh of excellent quality; matures in 130 days. Other varieties of this type that are of a similarly high quality are Queensland Blue, Crown Prince, Ironbark and Beaudesert Blue. Blue Hubbard Squash Large, pear shaped fruits; lightly ribbed and hard, warted skin; thick, sweet, dry, orange flesh of exceptional, delicious flavour; matures in 100 days. Other varieties are Green Hubbard, Golden Hubbard and miniature Little Gem.
Pink Banana Jumbo- Sensational in every way; very long, cylindrical, pink skinned fruits, slightly curved in the middle, that can be exceptionally large; fine-grained, sweet flesh of the highest quality; ideal for baking, roasting and pies; matures in 105 days.
Pawpaw- A favourite for subtropical and tropical regions; oval, pawpaw shaped fruits with thick, very sweet, tender, orange flesh; ideal for roasting and pumpkin pies; matures in 95 days.
Triamble- A splendid variety for eating; dense, sweet, fine-grained, excellently flavoured flesh; dark-skinned fruits are conspicuously three-lobed; matures in 105 days.
Waltham- A butternut variety with shorter vines and blocky, buff-coloured fruits with slight waist and very small seed cavity; dense, fine-grained flesh of excellent flavour; matures in 90 days.
Chestnut- A treasured older variety with thick, very sweet, dry, orange flesh; matures in 105 days.
Ebony Acorn- All Acorn varieties are acorn shaped with tender, dry, beautifully flavoured flesh. This famous old variety has the darkest green skin and matures in 85 days. The variety known as Bush Table Queen has green skin, while Jersey Golden Acorn has clear yellow skin.