Winter Squash Outperforms Summer Squash in My Garden

Immature Sweet Jade Winter Squash

For years I have grown zucchini and yellow summer squash from seed and every summer the dreaded squash vine borer decimates them. I have tried all the tricks but to no avail. This summer, I tried one last time and I also grew a winter squash. True to form, the summer squashes are half dead, their guts spilling out like seppuku. My winter squash, however, is happily wrapping itself around tomato and basil plants and running amuck across the grass.

Take a look at ‘Sweet Jade’. This is one plant, grown from seed sowed in May (thank you Johnny’s Selected Seeds). Under the large green leaves are several green squashes. I had no idea ‘Sweet Jade’ would get this large but we have been blessed with plenty of rain this year.

One Sweet Jade Plant Taking Over the Garden

Kabocha is a Japanese type of winter squash. Sweet Jade is a green type, a 2023 national All-America Selections winner. It is relatively small — a single serving –that can be carved into a soup bowl or “vase” for floral arrangements. Similar to acorn or butternut squash, the flesh can be roasted, baked, or pureed plus the skins are thin enough to eat. When mature, Sweet Jade is dark green with lighter green stripes with stump-like, corky stems and bright orange-yellow flesh.

All squash plants are warm season annuals, requiring full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. I have not had any pest or disease issues with Sweet Jade so far.  The wilted yellow summer squash and zucchini plants are nearby indicating that squash vine borers are in the vicinity but seemingly uninterested in Sweet Jade.

The kabocha squash belongs to the species Cucurbita maxima. Zucchini and yellow summer squash belong to a different species, C. pepo. According to Amy Goldman’s The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds, which covers several species, C. maxima has “mild flavor, high solids (starches and sugars), freedom from fibers, and a brilliant orange flesh. Choosy canners choose maximas.”

Mature Sweet Jade Winter Squash, photo courtesy of All-America Selections

Winter squashes are grown in the summer like summer squash, but they can be stored for months. This type needs to be harvested before a hard frost, preferably when the stem gets corky, dry, and brown. Then the squash must be sun cured for about a week or cured indoors at 80 to 85 degrees. Afterwards, if stored at 50 to 60 degrees, the squash can last for 4 to 5 months. The flesh gets sweeter during storage, so it is best to eat the squash in the fall/winter.

I am looking forward to harvesting mine later this fall. There are plenty of recipes online for this one in particular but any winter squash recipe will do. Try growing winter squashes next year but make sure you have plenty of room!

One response to “Winter Squash Outperforms Summer Squash in My Garden

  1. You are likely aware that zucchini is famously productive in most of California. That really is the primary reason it is so popular here. Not many of us are very fond of it, or we more likely just get tired of it, but we continue to grow it because it is so productive and reliable. At the end of the season, we can even let the last few fruits grow as winter squash! The flavor and texture only worsens as it matures, but that does not stop us. Anyway, winter squash are marginal. I know that they like warmth, but I suspect that they dislike aridity.

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