Squash is a favorite and easy vegetable for gardeners to grow in their backyard gardens. There are numerous varieties of both summer and winter squash. Both are actually grown in the summer.
How to Harvest Squash
Summer squash should be picked while small, never any larger than six inches in length or width. They will grow larger but if left to grow the skin will become thick and it will taste bitter. Small, summer squash can be very tasty.
It is best to harvest winter squash at the very end of the growing season and just before the first frost. They should never be picked before they have fully matured. When you thump your finger against a ripe winter squash, it should sound nearly hollow.
How To Preserve Squash
Most gardeners that grow squash realize that a good harvest will bring more of this vegetable than a family could eat in a month. Even after bags are given away to friends and family, the bounty is still plentiful. Preserving your carefully grown produce is easy and will keep your family fed long into the winter.
How to Freeze Squash
Freezing squash is simple to do. Wash your fresh veggies in cool water to remove any dirt, debris or chemical residue. Cut the stems off and slice it into pieces of the same size. Uniform pieces will cook more evenly than those of varying shapes and sizes. Bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, put the cut up squash into the pot. Leave them in the pot for five minutes.
Using a colander, strain the vegetables dry. Immediately put the colander and squash into a clean, sink full of ice water. The ice bath will stop them from cooking further and help to preserve the color and flavor for freezing. Once they are completely cooled, store the squash in zipper bags or freezer containers. Put them into the freezer for use throughout the year. It is safe to store squash using this method for up to nine months.
Some people prefer not to blanch the squash before freezing. This is acceptable but the flavor and color will not be as appealing. Simply wash the squash, cut the ends off, dry it and freeze it in an airtight bag.
Another way to preserve your bounty is to double your recipe when cooking a squash dish. Allow the second batch to cool thoroughly as any steam in an airtight container will make the food soggy and unappetizing. Once cool, put the squash into a freezer container and store. Your pre-made dish will save time when you use it for dinner.
5 Tips on How To Store Squash
Here are some tips on how to store squash:
1. Storage Time
Winter squash is able to be stored for three to six months. Summer squash will last about three days. The thick skin of the winter varieties makes it the choice for storage.
When harvesting, be sure to leave about three inches of vine attached to your squash. This prevents the vegetable from decaying quickly and promotes lengthier storage.
Do not wash any squash that is meant for storage. Any dampness will cause early decomposition. Leave it as you picked it until you plan to use it.
It is highly recommended that you cure the squash prior to storing it. Curing should be done at about 85 degrees. It should stay at this temperature for two days.
5. Storage Location
A shelf in a cool, dark basement is the best place to store your squash. A thick base of newspaper is ideal to protect the shelf in the event one of the vegetables begins to rot away. Cover the paper with a one inch layer of straw and place the squash on the straw. Do not stack your squash as that will promote decay.