tips for a great fall harvest of delicious delicata squash.
The Delicata squash plant is part of the zucchini family and has delicious edible skin unlike other winter squash. In this article you'll learn the the ins-and-outs of growing harvesting and preparing this delectable and versatile squash plant.
What is delicata squash?
The delicata squash plant is a the most interesting and unique of the squash varieties. Many argue whether or not it's a winter or summer squash. Its' tough outer skin and seeded inside gives the impression that this squash is in fact a winter squash. Delicata in fact belongs in the same family as zucchini and yellow squash, (cucurbita pepo) and when roasted delicata skin is a true culinary treat! Also known as the peanut squash, bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash, Delicata is longer and oval in shape, it has a primarily yellow or cream-colored skin with vertical green and sometimes orange stripes. Like other squash varieties, Delicata is native to the americas and was more than likely introduced to settlers by the native Americans.
How Do you grow delicata squash
Delicata squash plants have a relatively short growing season, they mature within 80-100 days. They can be either direct sown or started indoors and transplanted as seedlings. I have always had better luck direct sowing my delicata seeds. If you have a particularly short growing season you may want to start these seeds indoors. You can direct sow your delicata seeds as soon as daytime temps are in the high 60-70 F range.
Find the right growing area
Delicata squash, need full sun to thrive. Pick a space that receives at least eight hours of sun in the summer months. Depending on the variety of delicata squash you plant you may need more or less space. I have had no trouble planting squash about four or five feet apart. Although some varieties can vine out and become huge they really don't mind being close to one another as long as there is proper air flow. If your squash plants have poor air flow you may start seeing mildew and and other issues with pests and disease.
Planting your seeds
If you are choosing to start your delicata seeds indoors you can plant delicata squash seeds in late spring, depending on your last frost date and growing climate. I aim to start squash seeds three weeks prior to my last frost date. If you are direct sowing delicata, which is what I typically do and recommend. Space the squash seeds adequately and plant them about 1 inch deep. Lightly press the soil down around the seed. I like to build up small mounts of soil around my squash plant seeds in an interlinking pattern to make watering easier. Water the seeds until the mound is soaked. Keep the mound moist until the seedlings emerge.
Growing the best squash
Water squash deeply ever few days. It is common for squash to wilt during the day and spring back to life when the temps cool in the evening. Do not be alarmed if your squash look wilted during the hottest hours of the day, but do provide extra water if they are having a harder time bouncing back from the heat.
To suppress weed growth and maintain moisture levels, you can spread mulch around the delicata squash plant mound. I don't fertilize after planting squash but I do add a healthy layer of compost to soil before planting seeds.
Growing Delicata squash in containers
Like other squash delicata thrives when grown in containers, however due to the size that the squash plant can grow be sure to chose an ample size container. As you would with any other container gardening make sure your soil has been amended properly and you have the best possible soil for growing squash.
When to harvest delicata squash
When Delicata squash is ripe it takes on a creamy yellow color and typically has orange or green vertical stripes. The squash should come off the vine easily when twisted gently. full grown delicata squash are about three inches in diameter and six to eight inches long.
In some growing regions you can allow the delicata squash plant to die back during a hard frost and then harvest the squash.
Be sure to allow a bit of stem to stay attached to the squash when harvesting. This helps to keep the squash from spoiling in storage.
What does Delicata Taste Like
Delicata squash has a delicious almost custard like consistency when roasted, it's flavor is reminiscent of brown sugar and sweet potato. The edible skin is delicious when cooked until crisp and you can eat the squash almost like a French fry.
What is delicata squash good for
Delicata squash is a great squash for storing and eating. I recommend treating delicata almost as if it were a sweet potato it is wonderful roasted or cooked in the air fryer with avocado oil salt and pepper. No need to overcomplicate delicata dishes, the squash is packed with flavor and adding just a few simple spices is all it really needs.
Storing and preserving delicata squash
Delicata squash does not store quite as long as some of the other winter squash varieties, quite possibly because its edible skin is more porous than other winter squash. However it still is a great squash for storing, just be sure you keep and eye on it. It stores best at around 55-60 degrees F. You can also freeze or can delicata squash, freezing is simple, simply prep the squash the way you would to cook it and freeze. When canning be sure to use a tested canning recipe and a pressure canner.
Pro Gardener tips
- Prune off the first few squash that the plant produces. Although this may seem counter intuitive this will allow the plant to put more energy into it's roots in the beginning of the growing season allowing for a more fruitful squash harvest in the end.
- Give squash adequate space, allowing for proper circulation and increased chance of pollination.
- Grow more than one squash plant and variety.
- Be sure your soil is amended properly.