Am I the only one to think winter squash is only meant to be grown late in the year in Florida, and only eaten during the winter? I know better now, but before I grew winter squash in my garden, I thought this was the case. It largely is this way in many parts of the country. The plants grow all summer, and the fruit is harvested after the first frost. It is consumed during the winter because most kinds of winter squash do not store well beyond two or three months. Besides, they are too yummy to leave in storage.
While winter squash is often sown in late summer in Florida home gardens, late winter also is a terrific time to begin growing a crop of winter squash. The young plants seem to thrive in the cooler days of late winter over the heat of August and September, and the longer, brighter spring days help to increase yields over the shorter, more subdued days of late fall.
Not surprisingly, home-grown winter squash served in late summer is a welcome, tasty treat on the dinner table, just as it is during the cold days of winter.
Winter squash can be sown March-April in north Florida; February-March in central Florida; and January-February in south Florida. Complete planting dates for homegrown vegetables in Florida can be found by clicking the links located in the right column of this page.
I have tried many varieties of winter squash in my spring and fall gardens. Here are some you may want to consider in your garden this year:
Pilgrim Butternut Squash
New to my garden last year, Pilgrim winter squash was my star performer for 2013. The semi-bush plants produced a large crop in a small space (35 lbs in a 10 foot row), and the fine fleshed, cream-colored fruits were full of nutty, buttery flavor. The meaty fruits resist cracking, and the plants are resistant to powdery mildew. The vines continued to produce fruit well into the summer. Pilgrim squash proved to be an enormous favorite on the dinner table in my home.
Honey Bear Acorn Squash
When I saw the name “Honey Bear” acorn squash, I had to give it a try. I’m glad I did. This isn’t your traditional acorn squash. The texture of its flesh is more fine and starchy than ordinary acorn squash. And as sweet as a girlfriend right before Christmas. This 2009 All America Selections Winner hybrid squash is perfect for containers and small gardens. Each plant bears 3 to 5 fruit. The fruit are such a dark green they can appear nearly black in color. Each fruit can weigh about a pound and is ideal for baking and serving in halves. Tolerant to powdery mildew.
Acorn Table Queen Squash
Acorn Table Queen is an heirloom variety of acorn squash that dates back 150 years or more. It is a vining squash, so it can take up some space in the garden. The sweet flesh of this heirloom acorn squash is a golden yellow that turns more orange in color during storage
Burpee’s Butterbush Squash
If a traditional butternut squash is too large for your table, Burpee’s Butterbush (pictured above) is an excellent alternative. With fruit that averages only about one and a half pounds or less, it is just right for two. Its deep red flesh has tremendous butternut flavor. I prefer the taste to the classic Waltham Butternut. The Butterbush is a space-saver in the garden, too. The bush-type plants grow only 3 feet long. Each plant bears 4 to 5 butternut-shaped fruits.