Winter Squash Harvest

piles of orange squash

Sunshine Squash 2013 Harvest

I had several hits yesterday from people searching for info on when to harvest winter squash here in the Northwest.  The general rule is to let them grow as long as possible so long as the vines are still alive.  Some years we don’t get any real rain until late in October and you can leave them in the field to cure until the vines are dead.  On the other hand, here in the Northwest it’s about that time when the winter storms sometimes start coming in off the Pacific, so what to do?

My take on this is that if there’s just going to be a shower, or a day of rain, leave them if the vines still have some green in them.  If you’re looking at a real winter rain storm, like the one we’ve got coming in with several days of rain and more in the forecast, go ahead and get them in out of the wet if the vines are dying back.  Squash have a hard shell and will stand up to quite a bit of wet weather without rotting, but the spot where they lay on the ground is the most susceptible to rot.  If that stays wet after the squash is ripe they can get mold going there and spoil, so it’s a good idea to not let them lay on wet ground for long periods.

If your squash are still in the field and you don’t have too many, it might be a good idea when the weather dries up next week to harvest them if the vines are dying down, or if the vines are still green just rotate the squash so that the spot that’s been in contact with the ground is is off the ground so it can harden up with exposure to air and sun.  Sometimes I’ll take a handful of straw and put under there so they’re not lying directly on the ground.

Most years the powdery mildew solves this for us by killing off the vines as soon as it gets cool and wet.  All of my large squash were pretty well dead a couple of days ago when I harvested them, but my Delicata vines are still going strong so I left all of them in the field to keep growing for a while and did the same with my Sweet Dumpling that still have a way to go to mature.  If they’re actively growing I’ve never had a problem with them rotting, it just seems to happen to squash where the vine has died.

How to store them?  I guess opinions differ, or abilities anyway.  I know I’ve heard Carol Deppe say that she stores her squash in the house and that the warm dry air is best for them.  That may well be but I’ve never been able to devote a room to squash storage so I store mine in my shop.  It’s an unheated pole barn, but the good news is that in our climate it’s pretty much exactly the same as a refrigerator with temps in the high 30’s and 100 percent humidity all winter.  Delicata are considered to be short storage squash but last year I ate mine until early February, and my bit winter squash stored until Spring when I ate the last of them, so it seems to work pretty darned well.  I guess if you store them inside some of them will store for more than a year, but I’ve never felt the need for that.  By Spring I’m ready to eat other things.

Wheelbarrow full of orange squash

Sunshine Squash Harvest, Guatemalan Blue squash

 

Here’s a picture of my Sunshine squash with some Blue Guatemalan on top of them (and one Sweet Potato squash).  Aren’t they pretty?

 

Next post, when to eat  your squash.  Sneak peek, NOT NOW!

Squash Harvest

 

Oregon Sweetmeat Squash

Oregon Sweetmeat Harvest

 

The weather is supposed to get cold and wet so spending all day hauling the winter squash into the shop for dry storage before the rain hits.  I’ll put up a more detailed post but here’s a preview of my Oregon Homestead squash.  This is most of the squash from a 50′ row.  Not that many squash but they are big and heavy so overall a pretty good yield.

Dehydrator running full time!

Some years ago I was lucky enough to find a great dehydrator at a thrift store and practically threw the $5 they were asking for it at the clerk and grabbed it and ran away before they could come to their senses. Since then, it has been a staple of my food preservation. It has nine trays, each 15″ by 18″, which means a total of about 17 square feet in each run. In practical terms, it holds a full 5 gallon bucket full of apples or pears.

A load like this takes about 8 hours to dry, so I start it in early afternoon and it’s done about bed time.

How to build your own – Years ago Oregon State Universitypublished some great plans for how to make your own drier and thousands have been built.  They’re inexpensive, easy to build and

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Harvest Season

It’s that time of year when it seems like everything is getting ripe and needing to be put up for the winter. My goal is to eat as much as possible from the garden year round so I focus on preserving, primarily canning and drying.

Last week was tomato week. I canned about 40 quarts of chunky tomato sauce made by putting the whole tomatoes in a food processor and blitzing into very small chunks. It saves having to skin them all and the skins just disappear in the final product. Next they get cooked down to about half their original volume by putting them in an open turkey roaster in the oven at about 200F for about 12 hours. The long slow dehydration really gives them an intense dried tomato flavor and by doing in the oven they never burn.

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Harvesting Watermelons

Right now I’m harvesting watermelons of all kinds.  I’ve got 8 or 9 strains growing to see what does well and I’ve found some winners and some losers.  It’s been hot so I’ve pretty much been living on melons for the last 10 days or so as I know they won’t hold forever and it’s such a rare treat to be able to enjoy so many wonderful melons fresh from the field.  The melons were all planted in the middle of May this year.  We had a warm Spring followed by a cold snap and I had to quickly throw some row cover over them to keep them from freezing but they’ve done very well, giving me the biggest melon harvest I’ve had here.  Of course part of the success is choosing varieties that do well with short cool summers.

I’ll be doing strain review on all of the melons I grew this year (after I’ve finished eating them of course).