Question: (asked by me of a tiny 85 year-old woman who had just purchased a huge Hubbard squash) "Do you need a hand to cut that into smaller pieces?"
Answer: "Oh my dear, no thank-you. I live on the eighth floor!"
We have grown and harvested hundreds of tonnes of squash over the past few decades including:
Butternut Squash: The Alfa Romeo of squash that appears as though God was handed a french curve set. With its small seed cavity, it is easy to process. Terrific for baking or steaming. Sublime in soup.
Acorn or Pepper Squash: The Toyota Camry of squash that doesn't look anything like an acorn. Reliable and pleasant, although it can be stringy if unripe. Best baked with a dash of brown sugar. Early maturing.
Hubbard Squash: The Hummer of squash with a hard shell that can be a challenge to cut open. Has a small core of devoted fans. Excellent for pies (similar to pumpkin.)
In all we grow about a dozen different varieties, but of that dozen, I admit to having a huge bias towards one variety in particular:
Buttercup Squash. The Dodge Caravan of squash that does look like an acorn. A Dodge Caravan with a lumpy, warty exterior and flat green paint job.
But the inside is pure, unalloyed squash soul. When mature, the Buttercup has a somewhat dry, nutty, sweet flavor that just begs for a little butter to carry you home to the promised land of squash perfection. It needs no brown sugar; it will be chock full of sweetness from all those days spent on the vine soaking up sunlight.
"Mature" is the operative word for squash. Like that small print on the 8th page of that divorce settlement; the devil is in the details. Allow me to digress for just a moment...
Squash, which was grown by the native people long before the appearance of any white man on this continent, has always enjoyed a place of honor at Thanksgiving.
Squash requires every frost-free day it can find in our latitudes to mature. It and many other crops are simply not ready for harvest until late September in most years, which is the reason why we don't celebrate Thanksgiving on Labor Day or earlier in the year.
However, the chain stores and other merchants insist on stocking and selling squash right after Labor Day. I have even seen local squash for sale in late August. Some local farmers are more than happy to fill this niche; the wholesale price for squash in early September is much higher than it will be later in the month.
Why? Because after a winter of high priced American imports, squash lovers are looking for more reasonably priced local product. We are besieged by requests starting in August every year.
Part of the problem is the squash fruit itself. Although it has reached full size in the field by mid August and certainly looks mature, it requires several more weeks on the vine in the field to fully develop the natural sugars and full complement of Vitamins C, A and B6.
Ditto thiamine, magnesium, iron and calcium; all will be present, but in diminished amounts.
It will never mature off the plant if it is picked green in this way, and it will never taste remotely like the delicious vegetable that it can and should be.
Look for a dark yellow to orange ground spot to determine the maturity. If it's light green or pale white, choose another one or wait until you can buy mature squash.
Due to the cool wet summer of 2014, we had to wait until the second week of October to harvest our squash; our latest harvest ever. It was a major source of frustration for us and our customers.
But, it was (finally!) mature and it was so worth the wait.....
We have just picked our squash for this year and will have them available for the next several weeks.