Growing Squash and Preparing Your Harvest
(Page 4 of 6)
Books and articles about squash frequently speak in terms of an outdoor curing period. For example, after describing cutting the squash and leaving stem stubs, the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog says: “Cure in the field to dry and toughen skins by exposing fruits to sun for 5–7 days or so, covering in the evening if frost is likely. An indoor method of curing is to expose squash to 80°F–90°F (27°C–32°C) with ventilation for 3–5 days.” The “covering in the evening” assumes that you have cut the squash and consolidated them in a spot at the edge of the field (ready for loading into a cart or truck).
What people actually do with respect to curing, though, has more to do with their region and the year’s particular weather. Here in maritime Oregon, in squash-harvesting season, it is often raining. And when I am harvesting because a freeze is threatening, I want the squash safely out of the field. I don’t have any workable way of covering the amount of squash we harvest. I also don’t have any place that has temperatures of 80°F–90°F for indoor curing, either. My home is usually 60°F–68°F that time of year. That has to do for both people and squash. So the squash are always brought home at once and welcomed in with the people. There is a curing period, that is, a period after harvest in which the squash are allowed to sit and after-ripen before being eaten. But the curing temperature and conditions are the same as the rest of the storage. In other words, my idea of “curing” just amounts to not eating the fruit until it has been stored a certain amount of time.
I handle my squash gently. I never drop or toss them. I place them. I place big, heavy squash such as ‘Sweet Meat’ in a monolayer in the cart or truck, and I use old towels or sheets or rags between them to help cushion them for the ride home. I harvest the smaller squash such as the delicatas and ‘Sunshines’ into stacking crates, stacking them up and filling the crates. It doesn’t seem to hurt most small squashes to be in a crate buried under a foot of other small squash. I place squash in the crate so the cut stems or any pointy ends don’t jab into anybody.
People often suggest washing the squash with water with some bleach in it. I don’t do that. We all come in from the field dirty. My house is dirty. What’s a little dirt among friends? Once home with my squash, I distribute them everywhere. Every room, every empty table, every bookshelf is improved by a diversity of squashes of many shapes and colors. Two walls of a back room lined with industrial-weight shelves take some of the bigger squash. Other big squash are lined up on the floor next to the wall all around the living room and fill every empty corner and replace every doorstop. Any area against the wall where you don’t actually walk should be lined with big squash along the floor. Furthermore, if you put tarps in the corners out of the way, you can make foot-high piles of delicatas there. With this attitude, it’s pretty easy to store a ton or two of squash indoors without much difficulty, even without the shelves. I place each big squash so that whatever spot it sat on in the field is now exposed to the air. The stacked crates of smaller squashes form a wall of squash.
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