I like growing all vegetables, but I love the ones that are sown once during the year and store well, so for example carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic and so on. These are the real high-return crops, where it’s possible to become self-sufficient (or close to it) with a single act of seed sowing. Squashes are another good example of this type of vegetable – thanks to their hard-as-nails outer skins they will store very well from harvest time (around October) right through to the following May which is an impressive 8 months. Though we’re in mid May now, I still have a couple of squashes left in the kitchen (variety Uchiki Kuri) from last year’s growing. They are an incredibly versatile and delicious veg to have around – equally at home in a salad, risotto, stew, roast, tart or quiche – and the bigger ones have a serious amount of eating in them. It will be a bittersweet moment when the final one is hacked open and eaten.
So easy are squashes to grow, and so well do they store that I always find it strange that more commercial growers here don’t get in on the act, particularly with the more unusual varieties of squashes. Generally speaking most supermarkets only stock butternut squash (and usually imported ones) – it’s a shame they are not more adventurous because there are far sweeter and more flavoursome varieties out there. My favourite of all squash varieties is the ghostly, grey-blue Crown Prince which despite its enormous size and pumpkin-like demeanour, has an incomparable sweet flavour. I’ve seen an imported version on the shelves of a well-known Dublin artisan supermarket for a whopping €12, but never an Irish one (and from then on treated my own stock with a new-found reverence!).
It’s a good time of the year to sow squashes, so this week I got stuck in (see details below). I am growing the squash varieties Crown Prince, Delicata and Uchiki Kuri, and the pumpkins Baby Bear and Vif Rouge d’Etampes. I have sown about 30 seeds in all, but will probably not have enough space to plant them all out. If I can produce about 40-50 fruits in total I will be happy that there are many months of good eating ahead this winter.