Squash is one of North America’s oldest cultivated crops. It was originally one of three primary crops grown by Native American groups.
Today’s squash varieties can be broken up into two main categories: summer and winter. Summer squash includes varieties of yellow squash and zucchini that are picked at an immature stage when the rind is still soft and edible.
On the other hand, winter squash are varieties that the fruit is allowed to ripen to a mature state. This means the rind is tough, allowing the fruit to be stored throughout the winter – hence the name winter squash.
The Cushaw variety is great for the beginner gardener. It is resistant to squash vine borer, as well as powdery mildew. Cushaws typically mature around 110 days, depending on the exact variety, and each vine can yield three to four crookneck fruits that range in weight from 10 to 20 pounds. The fruit has a storage life of three to four months. The light yellow and mildly sweet fruit is often used in pumpkin pies.
The Candy Roaster variety is a true Appalachian heirloom that is known for its sweet flavor. The plant matures around 110 days, and the buttercup-shaped fruit ranges in size from 15 to 30 pounds. This variety prefers hot temperatures and doesn’t reach its full flavor potential during cooler summers.
The Boston Marrow variety is thought to have been developed in the northeastern United States. The plant matures around 100 days and yields fruit in the 10- to 20-pound range. The large, bulbous fruit with small crooknecks boasts an intense red-orange skin with a fine textured yellow-orange flesh that cooks down to a creamy custard, making this a perfect squash for baking.
By Josh Peplowski, WVU Extension Agent – Greenbrier County