IT seems months since I planted my squash seeds, edge on, in pots in the greenhouse. The flat seeds are prone to rot otherwise, writes Anne Akers.
Once they’ve started growing, these little plants take up a huge amount of space in the allotment.
They are vines, with winding tendrils, so I could grow them up huge frames made with stout branches, held together with twine, like Monty Don does in his amazing posh garden down south. But I am lacking in the construction department, so along the ground they creep
There’s a lot of leaves and stem for not many squash, one or two per plant if you want big fruit, nipping the end off when they become too prolific, otherwise they’ll take over the whole site.
It is immensely satisfying to see the yellow flowers transform into little squash, then huge great beasts.
As they grow in size and weight, they have to be lifted from the ground by slates or flat stones to stop them rotting and keep the slugs away.
As the leaves die back the fruit ripen, but they need to be left in place until the stalk starts to break away, it’s important to leave the stalk intact and definitely not use it as a handle, as the scar is likely to rot. Then there’s the curing, the skins have to be allowed to thicken, preferably in the sunshine, but not in the frost, or they’ll rot.
The greenhouse, shed or unheated room in the house will be fine, mine are there now and I’ll be keeping an eye on them over the winter.
They’ll keep for months and will be delicious in soups, stews, or just plain roasted. They also make good chutney and, being sweet, make a surprisingly delicious jam.
Speaking of jam, it is one of the easiest and most rewarding preserves to make from the allotment harvest. Once you’ve made and tasted your own, you’ll never eat shop-bought again by choice. I’ve made a batch of blackberry, which is like blackberry fudge, so sweet and squidgy, also raspberry and, with an abundance of plums this year, a rather lovely roast plum, vanilla and cardamom, which I’ll be giving for Christmas presents.
Meanwhile on the allotment, the sprouts and parsnips will be ready to pick on Christmas morning. Then it’s time to plan next year’s harvest.