There are some squashes we're all familiar with: the typical orange pie pumpkin, large orange pumpkins for jack o'lanterns, acorn or butternut squash. And while these squashes are all lovely, there is so much more to the world of winter squashes and pumpkins! Visiting a farmer's market in the fall is the best way to see, first-hand, the wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors of all of the heirloom winter squashes avaliable to us. In this article, we'll look at a few unique winter squashes to consider growing in your own garden.
Winter Squashes and Pumpkins, Explained
Before we start looking at the variety of winter squashes available to us, it would probably be a good idea to discuss the difference between a pumpkin and a winter squash. And the answer is...
Well, all right. That's not quite true. "True" pumpkins are known botanically as Cucurbita pepo, while the other winter squashes are most often Cucurbita moschata or Cucurbita maxima.
A good way to think of it is: all pumpkins are winter squashes, but not all winter squashes are pumpkins. For our purposes in this article, I'll generally be using the umbrella term "winter squashes."
As far as what differentiates winter squashes (including pumpkins) from their summer squash relatives, the main difference is that winter squashes are varieties that are grown to maturity and store well. They have a hard rind, and will keep for months in a root cellar. The flesh is firmer. We harvest winter squashes and pumpkins when the foliage starts to die back on the plants and the stems start to toughen; summer squashes, of course, are best harvested small and tender.
8 Winter Squashes to Grow in Your Garden
Here are eight beautiful, tasty, and unique heirloom winter squashes to grow in your garden.
- 'Musque de Provence' -- This beautiful French variety is becoming more popular. Its gorgeous buff color and flat, deeply ribbed shape make this perfect for displaying for fall, but don't stop there. The flavor of this squash is amazing: sweet, complex, and absolutely delicious roasted. These are large squashes, weighing in at fifteen to twenty-five pounds at maturity.
- 'Long Island Cheese' -- This flat, round, buff-colored squash is also becoming quite popular as a fall decoration. But don't stop there! 'Long Island Cheese' is a very good keeper, and the flavor is deep and complex.
- 'Marina di Chioggia'-- This Italian heirloom variety has stunning greenish gray, bumpy skin and a sweet flavor that only improves in storage. The fruits typically weigh in at around ten to twelve pounds.
- 'Kikuza' -- The someone cinnamon-colored rind of this Japanese heirloom variety is definitely unique, as is the flavor. There is a bit of a spicy note to the firm flesh of these small (four to seven pound) squashe. They are excellent baked or roasted.
- 'Queensland Blue' -- This Australian variety has a deeply ribbed greenish-blue rind. The bright orange flesh is quite dense and very sweet. This is also an excellent keeper.
- 'Strawberry Crown' -- This is one of the most gorgeous squashes I've ever seen, and it is absolutely perfect for fall decorating. The brown rind of these squashes is accented by just a touch of salmon color at the crown. It is tasty as well; excellent baked or roasted.
- 'Black Futsu' -- This rare Japanese squash has a black rind that is bumpy and heavily ribbed. The black fruits will eventually turn a chestnut hue in storage. The nutty flavor of this squash is perfect for roasting or even baking with.
- 'Galeaux D'Eysines' -- This is one of my favorite squashes. The pinkish rind is covered with buff colored "warts." And the flavor is to die for: this is actually my favorite variety to make "pumpkin" butter and puree with: sweet, deeply orange -- just perfect.
This is just a sampling of some of the varieties of winter squash available to home gardeners. If you are interested in growing some of them, check out the seed sources listed below.