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October 2016

Stock Up On Winter Squashes

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October is the best time of year to shop for great gobs of gourds. Buy plenty so you can have them on hand to enjoy during the cold winter months.

Pumpkins are the most popular of the winter squashes, but most folks use those just for decorating or carving. While you’re shopping, be sure to pick up a few sugar or pie pumpkins to use for cooking, stuffing and baking.

There’s a wonderful world of winter squashes available and now’s the time to stock up for the season. There are at least a dozen kinds of squashes at Nick’s Farm Market to use for decorating and for delicious eating.

Many gardeners grow winter squashes in their vegetable gardens, but most varieties take about twice as long to grow as summer squashes. They also take up more space in the garden, so there’s a limit to the numbers of winter squashes gardeners grow.

Mature winter squashes are perfect for storing for the long term because they’ve been cured to have a tough outer skin. When you shop for a winter squash, look for one that’s colorful, heavy for its size and with a hard rind. Avoid squashes without a stem or those that have blemishes or soft spots because they won’t keep as long when stored in a cool, dry space.

Winter squashes are naturally low in calories, high in fiber and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Their deep rich yellow and orange colored flesh means they have plenty of beta-carotene, too. Even the seeds are good for roasting and snacking.

Here are eight of the most popular winter squashes and a few ideas for preparing them. Buy at least two or three varieties you’ve never tried before. You might find one you’d like to grow in your vegetable garden next year:

Acorn is one of the most familiar squashes because of its shape and dark green outer skin. Look for one that has a deep yellow grow spot that shows where it was in contact with the soil. Acorn squashes are good for cutting in half, stuffing and baking.

Delicata is the colorful yellow and green squash with an oblong shape. Delicata has a thinner skin than some winter squashes making it easier to slice and roast with olive oil and dried herbs.
Red Kuri has a unusual onion-like shape. These red squashes are a smaller-size, but are dense on the inside. Most chefs prefer to roast these squashes until very tender, remove the flesh and puree for a tasty and beautiful soup. For added flair, scoop the seeds from a small pumpkin to use as an attractive soup tureen.

Blue Hubbard is the large and lumpy blue-gray squash that might scare away some people. The size can be intimidating, but that just means there’s more to love. To prepare, cut in half, place it flesh side down in 1/2 inch of water and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 375 degrees. Scoop out the flesh to use as a side dish, a base for soups and purees, or use it to make “pumpkin” pie.
Spaghetti squashes have a buttery smooth exterior and stringy flesh inside. To use, cut a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and bake cut side down in a 450-degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Let cool and use a spoon to scrape strands of squash from inside; top with spaghetti sauce.

Sweet Dumpling is as delicious as it sounds. These small-size squashes are a good size for cutting in half and baking. They make cute side dishes when served individually with butter and brown sugar.

Carnival squashes are small speckled squashes that are a cross between Acorn and Sweet Dumpling. They have a slight acorn shape and can be orange, yellow and green with speckles. The flesh is yellow with a mild taste that pairs well with maple syrup.

Butternut squashes are tan with a long neck and bulb-like bottom. For easier cutting through the tough skin, poke a few vent holes in the squash and microwave until slightly soft. Then cut the bottom portion from the neck and slice into rings; then peel. Use butternut squash to make soups, casseroles, muffins and breads.

To prepare the scooped out squash seeds, wash and remove any stringy flesh. Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer, sprinkle with kosher salt or other seasonings and roast in a 400-degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until toasted and lightly browned.

Take The Fall Lawn Care Quiz

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The season may have changed from summer to fall, but that’s no excuse to stop taking care of your lawn for the year. There’s still some care bluegrass lawns need before they go dormant for the winter.

Take this True or False quiz to test your fall lawn care knowledge. Then check your answers to see what your lawn needs before the snow starts to fly.

Lawns require less water in fall, so there’s no need to keep watering. True or False?
Fall is the time to treat the lawn for broadleaf weeds, like dandelions. True or False?
The last lawn fertilizing of the season is the most important one of the year. True or False?
Fall is the worst time of the year to reseed or renovate a bluegrass lawn. True or False?
The best fertilizer for a fall lawn feeding is one that’s high in nitrogen. True or False?
Fertilizer can be applied anytime in fall, even after the lawn has turned brown. True or False?
Core aerating a lawn is best when done only in spring. True or False?
Fall fertilizing gives turfgrass roots the energy they need to survive the winter. True or False?
Once the ground freezes, there’s no need to water in the winter. True or False?
Fall fertilizing helps lawns green up sooner in spring. True or False?
CHECK YOUR ANSWERS
How well do you handle fall lawn care? Use the answers to create a fall lawn care plan you can tackle this month.

False. While lawns do require less water in fall, a healthy lawn still needs watering about once a week especially if there’s a lack of measurable precipitation.
True. Fall is the time to treat the lawn for broadleaf weeds, like dandelions. If you had problems with broadleaf weeds, now’s the time to control them. Dandelion, bindweed, clover, thistle and plantain can be treated with herbicide while grass is still green.
True. The last lawn fertilizing of the season is the most important one of the year. Fertilizing now helps grass grow roots and side shoots that will make for a healthier lawn next season.
False. Fall is a good time to seed, reseed or renovate a bluegrass lawn. Sod can also be planted as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Be sure to keep up with winter watering so the new lawn doesn’t dry out.
True. The best fertilizer for a fall lawn feeding is one that’s high in nitrogen. Roots need nitrogen to help them grow so look for a lawn fertilizer with the highest first number, such as a 22 or 25.
False. Time your fertilizer application while the lawn is still green and at least several weeks before freezing weather begins. Water before and after fertilizing.
False. Core aerating the lawn in fall is a good first step before reseeding and fertilizing.
True. Fall fertilizing gives turfgrass roots the energy they need to survive the winter. Stronger, healthier roots will help turfgrass weather the winter and start growing again next spring.
False. Winter weather in our region often has a freeze and thaw cycle. Keep up with watering in winter – by hose and sprinkler – about once a month when there’s no snow cover and temperatures are above 40 degrees. Water early in the day to prevent water from freezing on the turf.
True. Fall fertilizing helps lawns green up sooner in spring. Healthy roots will start growing again in early spring so you can have the first green lawn in your neighborhood.