- Early Yellow Crookneck Squash
Early Yellow Crookneck Squash
As every farmer's market vendor knows, the true Yellow Crookneck is in demand, because the flavor is superb. The creamy texture and sweet flavor of these has been a summer tradition for well over a century. The newer, smoother, straighter hybrids are invariably disappointing. My mom, who grew up in Virgina, called them "Cymblins"--a summer treat we looked forward to every year. After you have had your fill of them steamed, fried, or in pasta sauce, try them Southern style--mashed with cream. But while hybrids have displaced these tasty heirlooms in the grocery store and at high-production farms, you can still have them in your own garden. Crookneck squash were originally bred by Native American farmers, and this particular strain dates to the early 1800's. Like all summer squash, they are best picked young.
After the sprouts are a few inches tall, thin to the best 3 plants per hill. Hoe out all the weeds in the bed or row, piling some dirt at the base of the plants. Then if you put down mulch, it will prevent weeds and keep the squash off of damp soil. If squash bugs are a problem for you, sprinkle well with diatom dust.
Summer squash should be picked every day or two, and eaten while small (6"-8".) The reason people complain about having too many zucchini is that they let them get too big. Store squash in a dry place. Even zucchini keeps better in a dry airy room than in the fridge, where it molds.
Winter squash is ripe when there is no green left in the stem--it should be hard and woody or corky--and the skin should be too hard to poke with a fingernail. Regardless of ripeness, harvest before frost or they will rot. Use any unripe or bruised ones first. The rest should be put indoors to cure for a month before eating. This makes them much sweeter. Handle them gently and wipe if needed but don't wash. They can be stored in any dry place that stays above 50 degrees. Check often for soft spots, and don't forget to use them for soups and pasta as well as roasted and in pie.
Seed saving: Insect-pollinated, requires at least 500 ft isolation in home gardens (1/2 mile if selling seed.) Our offerings include 3 species: Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin, delicatas, acorns, and most summer squash), Cucurbita maxima (Buttercup, Lower Salmon River, Stella Blue, Zapallo), and Cucurbita moschata (Butternut, Tromboncino.) Members of the same species will cross with each other, but not with other species. So if you have the isolation to grow squash seed, you can have one of each species and still save seed.