There are many varieties of squash, but whatever you plant it’s important to consider planting only a few varieties and then only sparingly. Unhappily, it’s just too easy to wind up with too much for the family to eat, freeze, can or even give away.
My favorites are acorn, butternut and zucchini. Just a few hills of each nicely separated and carefully watched, harvested and processed can keep us with more than enough squash all season long and plenty extra that will keep for all sorts of dishes over the winter and spring until next year’s crops come in.
Zucchini comes on early and must be picked and processed while still reasonably small. Left on the vine they can grow to be really large. You can cut them up and put the unseeded parts in salads, zucchini pancakes, or in roasted vegetable dishes, but with too many large zucchini, things can easily get out of hand. The small zucchini are delicious, in salads or cooked with a little corn, sometimes with added oils and spices to taste. These dishes can be frozen and heated up later as well. For balance you can grow both a little zucchini and some summer squash, harvest and use them alternately in different dishes over the summer before other squashes are harvested later in summer or early fall. Both can be put into salads and into lightly roasted vegetable dishes as well.
Butternut maintains it’s flavor well and can be roasted after being cut up in half inch cubes to which one adds sprigs of thyme, some maple syrup, butter, olive oil, with a little salt and pepper. You can experiment with portions–but note that it’s easy to overdo it with the thyme and the maple syrup. Make enough to eat with some salmon slow-cooked on the charcoal grill indirectly, but covered to keep the juices mostly within. The left-over squash can be frozen in individual serving sizes that may be heated and served later with other dishes later. The salmon-butternut squash dinner also goes well with some freshly steamed pole beans and some sliced garden tomatoes.
Acorn squash comes in even later but keeps especially well in a humid root cellar, which also is a good place to keep butternut to make it available over fall and early winter. Zucchini, it seems tends to be best if eaten fried with corn or roasted with other vegetables soon after picking, but also for zucchini pancakes. Acorn squash is at its best baked in halves after removing seeds and stringy pulp. I added a little butter first, then sprinkle in half dozen caraway seeds, some dill, tarragon, cumin and curry, adding a light spay of olive oil, and some salt and pepper (ground from peppercorns). Experiment with portions of these spices and herbs. Everyone has a different spice and herb requirement–but remember, there is a tendency to go too lightly. Cook for about an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Uneaten acorn squashed can be scooped out and frozen, and then warmed up as part of a mid-winter meal. Alternatively, you can retrieve acorn squash from the root cellar and cook it as noted above.