Like squash but don’t want to sacrifice garden space to their sprawling vines? These flavorful mini varieties offer compact plant size and a shorter growing season.
W hat’s your favorite way to warm up on a cold winter day? Mine is to put on a big pot of homemade squash soup! With such a staggering selection of varieties, you’ll quickly discover that there is a perfect squash for whatever you want to cook. Squash are native to North America but have been embraced by the global garden community, with varieties being developed in countries like China, Japan, and even Australia. There are three main species of winter squash: Curcurbita pepo (acorn, delicata, spaghetti), C. moschata (butternut, Musquée de Provence), and C. maxima (buttercup, banana, hubbard, kobocha).
Contrary to their name, winter squash are warm-season plants grown in summer. However, they are eaten in fall and winter, thanks to their hard, protective skin that forms a barrier against rot. A properly stored squash can last as long as 9 months in a cool basement or garage.
Winter squash come in a wide range of sizes, from modest, half-pound individual-sized fruits all the way up to monster-size squash that weigh over a hundred pounds. Popular types include acorn, butternut, buttercup, and delicata, but don’t discount the many other wonderful kinds, including the Japanese types like kuri and kabocha.
Like Winter Squash? TRY Miniature Winter Squash!
Winter squash vines aren’t shy about taking over your garden, often sprawling 10 to 15 feet in every direction. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in small gardens or even containers. Bush-type winter squashes take up less room, and they mature earlier, so they’re good for shorter seasons, too.
‘SWEET DUMPLING’ (95 days)
This is a great choice for gardeners who want single-serving fruits and shorter vines. For much of the growing season, the plants are compact, but they do stretch out as harvest nears. Each vine yields up to ten 4-inch-wide fruits that weigh less than a pound. The roundish-flat fruits are very pretty — creamy ivory with dark green stripes — and hide a bright orange interior. The fine-textured flesh is very sweet — even the kids love it!
‘BUTTERSCOTCH’ (100 days)
This All-America Selections winner is simply outstanding. The tidy 3-foot vines are great for container gardens or small spaces, yet they yield a good crop of palm-size butternut squash. Too cute! The fruits weigh 1 to 2 pounds and have a very sweet flavor and smooth texture. Resistant to powdery mildew.
‘BUSH DELICATA’ (100 days)
Another All- America Selections winner, ‘Bush Delicata’ is an easy-to-grow squash that won’t take over your yard. The vines grow to about 4 feet and yield 1½- to 2-pound oval fruits with ivory skin and green stripes. The pale orange flesh is fine textured and sweet. The plants are resistant to powdery mildew.