Monday, September 21, 2009

Frost and Winter Squash

We got a frost on Saturday night. The temperature was supposed to dip down to a chilly 38 degrees... and I made the decision to not worry about the farm freezing-- I just couldn't believe that it would actually frost this early, and besides, I was really really tired.

I went out to harvest 8am Sunday morning, and saw the icy white crystals on my sweatshirt & workgloves I had left outside the shed. I ran out to the field, it was sparkling in the rising sunlight. I knew the broccoli & cabbage would be fine, but how were the peppers & eggplants? Turns out they survived... but the winter squash took a hit.

The poor pumpkins, butternuts, delicatas, sweet dumplings, red kuris, buttercups, & blue hubbards were lying on the ground exposed, with the leaves of the squash almost completely dead from powdery mildew. The frost settled down on top of the fruits, and left its mark as it thawed. A few hours later the damage could be determined-- all the remaining foliage had turned black & wilted, and about 5-10 % of the squash looked affected by the frost. Not too bad.

We harvested all the squash then-- put it up in the greenhouse to cure for a week or so.

It turns out that lightly frost-damaged squash could possibly cure alright & be saved. But I didn't know that & gave some out at distribution "for immediate consumption"... thinking that the spots caused by the freeze would turn mushy & rot soon. I was saving this food from the compost!

Uncured squash, straight from the field, is for the most part tasteless & bland. Most types of squash need to go through a curing process at around 80 degrees for a week or two-- Butternut especially needs about a month in storage afterwords for the sweetness we're used to.

So... when cooking with uncured winter squash: use lots of spices & flavoring!

- Crock-pot it with lots of other strongly flavored vegetables or meats.

- Roast it in the oven with tons of brown sugar

- Cut it up really small and stir-fry it with hot peppers & garlic

Good luck-- and if the frost-spot isn't very pronounced, you could always keep it in your warmest room for a week or two (checking to see that it's staying together alright!)... and cure it yourself.

Check out the greenhouse to see tables filled with color! (Pictures coming soon)

1 comment:

Joanna Green said...

Hey Erin - that was a really helpful post. I woke up this morning (Oct 8) to frost damage on more than half of my butternut squash crop.....Waaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!