|Yellow Crookneck Squash, Cucurbita pepo Plant. - Photo Taken August 3, 2011.|
At The Yarnell Community Garden Project, "Community Garden," In Yarnell, Arizona.
|Male Flower. Zucchini or Courgette, Cucurbita pepo.|
Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
|Female Flower. Zucchini or Courgette, Cucurbita pepo.|
Photo Taken In Yarnell, Arizona.
|Fruit. Yellow Crookneck Squash, Cucurbita pepo.|
Photo Taken In Yarnell, Arizona.
|Leaf. Yellow Crookneck Squash, Cucurbita pepo.|
Photo Taken In Yarnell, Arizona.
Yellow Crookneck Squash
We wish to thank Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, for some of the images and information which we were able to receive from them. We share our information, also with Wikipedia.
Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita native to Mexico and Central America, also called marrows depending on variety or the nationality of the speaker. These species include C. maxima (hubbard squash, buttercup squash, some varieties of prize pumpkins, such as Big Max), C. mixta (cushaw squash), C. moschata (butternut squash), and C. pepo (most pumpkins, acorn squash, summer squash, zucchini).
New archaeological evidence suggests squash may have been first cultivated in Mesoamerica some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, and may have been independently cultivated elsewhere at a later date. Squash was one of the "Three Sisters" planted by Native Americans. The Three Sisters were the three main native crop plants: maize (corn), beans, and squash. These were usually planted together, with the cornstalk providing support for the climbing beans, and shade for the squash. The squash vines provided ground cover to limit weeds. Weeds can be detrimental to the growing conditions of the squash. The beans provided nitrogen fixing for all three crops.
This evidence of the oldest known use of squash was discovered in the Guilá Naquitz Cave, in the Tehuacán Valley, of Oaxaca, Mexico. Evidence of the use of all of the "Three Sisters" was discovered there.
The author of this article, George DeLange, having traveled extensively in these countries, noticed that this pre-Columbian food trio is still the mainstay of the Mexican and Central American cuisine, and is known today as the "three sisters."
In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash, depending on whether they are harvested as immature fruit (summer squash) or mature fruit (autumn squash or winter squash). Gourds are from the same family as squashes. Well known types of squash include the pumpkin and zucchini. Giant squash are derived from Cucurbita maxima and are routinely grown to weights nearing those of giant pumpkins.
Summer squashes, including zucchini (also known as courgette), pattypan and yellow crookneck are harvested during the growing season, while the skin is still soft and the fruit rather small; they are eaten almost immediately and require little to no cooking.
Winter squashes (such as butternut, Hubbard, buttercup, ambercup, acorn, spaghetti squash and pumpkin) are harvested at maturity, generally the end of summer, cured to further harden the skin, and stored in a cool place for eating later. They generally require longer cooking time than summer squashes. (Note: Although the term "winter squash" is used here to differentiate from "summer squash", it is also commonly used as a synonym for Cucurbita maxima.) The squash fruit is classified as a pepo by botanists, which is a special type of berry with a thick outer wall or rind formed from hypanthium tissue fused to the exocarp; the fleshy interior is composed of mesocarp and endocarp. The pepo, derived from an inferior ovary, is characteristic of the squash family (Cucurbitaceae). In culinary terms, both summer and winter squashes are generally considered as vegetables, even though pumpkin may be used for sweet dishes.
In addition to the fruit, other parts of the plant are edible. Squash seeds can be eaten directly, ground into paste, meal, "nut" butter, even a fine flour, or (particularly for hulless pumpkins) pressed for vegetable oil (e.g. bottle gourd, buffalo gourd, and pumpkin seed oils). The shoots, leaves, and tendrils can be eaten as greens. The blossoms are an important part of native American cooking, and are also used in many other parts of the world. Both the male and female blossoms can be harvested pre- or mid-flower.
The Cucurbitaceae family is predominantly distributed around the tropics, where those with edible fruits were amongst the earliest cultivated plants in both the Old and New Worlds.
Most of the plants in this family are annual vines but there are also woody lianas, thorny shrubs, and trees (Dendrosicyos). Many species of Cucurbitaceae have large, yellow or white flowers. The stems are hairy and pentangular. Tendrils are present at 90° to the leaf petioles at nodes. Leaves are exstipulate alternate simple palmately lobed or palmately compound. The flowers are unisexual, with male and female flowers on different plants (dioecious) or on the same plant (monoecious). The female flowers have inferior ovaries. The fruit is often a kind of modified berry called a pepo.
Technically or Botanically speaking, Squash is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female squash flower.
Most cooks consider it as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment to a main course meal.
When used for food, Squash are often picked when under 8 inches in length, while the seeds are still soft and immature. Mature Squash can be as much as three feet long, but the larger ones are often fibrous and they do not taste as good as the smaller fruits.
Squash with the flowers attached are the sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and are especially sought after, by many cooks.
Squash is usually served cooked. It can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as soufflés. It also can be baked into a bread, zucchini bread or incorporated into a cake mix.
Squash should not be stored in a refrigerator for longer than three days. They are prone to chilling damage which shows up as sunken pits in the surface of the fruit, especially when they are brought up to room temperature after being in cold storage.
Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep fried, as tempura. In Mexico, the flower (known as flor de calabaza) is preferred over the fruit and they are often cooked in soups or used as a filling for quesadillas.
Regarding The Flowers:
Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are the ones you should choose to be cooked to be eaten, with pistils removed from female flowers, and stamens removed from male flowers.
For edible flowers, harvest early in the morning before they close, place them with their bases in water, and store in the fridge until you're ready to use them.
The stem on the flowers should be retained, as a way of giving the cook something to hold onto during cooking, rather than injuring the delicate petals, or they can be removed prior to cooking, or prior to serving.
There are a variety of recipes in which the flowers may be deep fried as fritters or tempura (after dipping in a light tempura batter), stuffed, sautéed, baked, or used in soups.
The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each emergent squash. The male flower grows directly on the stem of the squash plant in the leaf axils (where leaf petiole meets stem), on a long stalk, and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible.
Note: Since, Squash is one of the easiest fruits to cultivate in temperate climates. As such, it has a reputation among home gardeners for overwhelming production. One good way to control over-abundance is to harvest the flowers, which are a very expensive delicacy in markets because of the difficulty in storing and transporting them.
While easy to grow, squash, like all members of the Cucurbitaceae family, requires plentiful bees for pollination. In areas of pollinator decline or high pesticide use, gardeners often experience fruit abortion, where the fruit begins to grow, then dries or rots. This is due to an insufficient number of pollen grains delivered to the female flower. It can be corrected by hand pollination or by increasing the bee population.
The Squash fruit is low in calories (approximately 100 food calories per 1 cup) and contains useful amounts of folate (24 mcg/100 g), potassium (280 mg/100 g) and vitamin A (384 IU [115 mcg]/100 g. 1/2 cup of squash also contains 19% of the recommended amount of manganese.
The 1 cup serving of squash includes about 22 g of carbohydrates and 2 g of protein, as well as 4 g of sugars.
PLANTING YOUR SQUASH:
Any soil that is correctly cultivated will do, but it is to your advantage if the land is sandy and loamy.
Soil with a 6 to 6.5 pH is best; however, they will grow in a higher pH Soil, such as 8 +, as it is in Arizona.
Plant squash once soil temperatures reach 70 degrees F at a depth of 2 inches. Seeds germinate at temperatures above 60 degrees F, but warmer temperatures facilitate better growth and yield. Use black plastic mulch and spun row covers to raise soil temperature and facilitate earlier planting. The ideal planting time varies according to your location. In some warm places, such as Arizona, zucchini can be planted twice, in March and late August.
Make sure that you have enough space available to plant a squash plant. They can grow to be huge, and will "out shade" neighboring plants and kill them. We recommend 4 - 5 feet in all directions from where you plant the single Zucchini plant.
In Arizona, we recommend that you purchase starter plants from a nursery, however more choices are available if you start from seed. Keep in mind that you only need a few seeds from any package, as it is said that 3 or 4 plants will sufficiently feed a small family. Actually, we have found that one plant will produce more than enough for a small family. Any seeds that you don't use can be planted in the next few years, since most retain their viability for up to 4 years.
If you are going to start from seed indoors, early before all danger of frost is over (You don't want to sow them too early, as they will wilt indoors when growing larger):
Take a small pot and fill it with soil, and place one seed 1/2 to 1 inch deep.
Water regularly, but make sure your pot has drainage.
After a month, your seedlings should be strong and ready for planting. Make sure that the last chance for frost has passed.
Gently take your seedlings from its pot, fluff up its roots, and then plant the zucchini vine into your garden bringing the dirt up to the soil line on your plant.
Next mulch your plants to hold in moisture and to suppress weeds. Mounding soil around the base of the plants can also discourage squash borers from laying their eggs.
If planting plants purchased from a nursery, use the same method.
If you are directly sowing squash seeds into your garden:
Plant 2 inch deep into your soil. Other sources will say 1/2 to 1 inch deep in mounds, but remember this is Arizona.
In our desert conditions it can be planted in March and again in late August, allowing for two harvests per year.
Squash wilt in the hot sun, so they can look half dead in the middle of a hot summer day. But, they will rebound.
Monitor your plants closely and often for pests or disease. Be sure to look at the undersides of leaves, that's where many of the squash pests reside.
When planted in compost-rich soil where nutrients are released slowly, additional fertilizers may not be required. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers; they will only encourage more leaves and stems.
If your soil needs fertilizer, an organic liquid fertilizer such as liquid seaweed may be applied at 2- to 3-week intervals.
If you do not have pollinators, such as bees, your fruit won't set. In that case, pollinate the squash flowers yourself early in the morning before the flowers close
The easiest way I've found is to cut a male flower from the plant, carefully remove the petals leaving the stamen intact, and then dab the stamen directly into the center of a female flower. Of course if you have plenty of bees or other beneficial insects around the garden, they will take care of pollination for you! Don't be discouraged at first if all you find are male flowers. Many times squash plants produce more males early in the season. It won't take long before you begin to see female flowers and then anticipate the first fruits of your labor!
Soil moisture is very important, especially during the flowering and fruit development of your squash.
Your soil should remain moist, drying only slightly between waterings, it should never be allowed to dry completely, nor should it remain too soggy.
Avoid overhead watering, such as spraying with a hose. Water the soil, not the leaves. Soil-borne diseases can cause problems to plants if water splashes up from the soil to the leaves.
Water deeply (2 to 3 feet) once a week during the cooler weather, and increase watering to 2 or 3 times a week in the summer.
Mulch heavily with organic material to help maintain and moderate soil moisture.
Wilting leaves during the hottest part of a summer day are not always an indicator that the plant needs more water. When in doubt, check the soil.
When harvesting, try and pick your squash early, when they are small and succulent.
Note: Early fruits can be wrinkled and rot due to bad pollination - don't worry, the later ones will by sturdier.
PESTS AND DISEASES:
Common pests associated with summer squash are aphids, spider mites, squash vine borers, and whiteflies. Planting nasturtium with squash reduces aphid problems, however, nasturtium seeds are slow to germinate and should be planted before the squash. Insecticidal soap may be used to control aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies, but be sure to dilute the spray and refrain from spraying in the heat of the day because squash leaves may burn easily. It is wise to test a few leaves first before spraying the entire plant. And don't forget the undersides of leaves, where spider mites and whiteflies are usually found. To control squash vine borers, spray the base of stems once a week with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki.
Common diseases include bacterial wilt, downy mildew, powdery mildew, and viruses. In the case of bacterial wilt, leaves begin to die. Cut the wilted stem and touch the tip of your knife to the sap. If it is milky and sticky, your plant is infected. Destroy infected plants immediately. Bacterial wilt, mildews and most viruses can be controlled or prevented with good cultural practices. Inspect plants often and control insect pests that can spread disease. Keep the garden clean and free of weeds and debris. Mildews can be reduced or prevented with proper watering and good air circulation.
|All Squash - Quick General Information:
Type: Fruit, the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower, a modified berry, called a pepo; but considered a vegetable, by most cooks.
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Images And Text Copyright Eve & George DeLange.