This week I am excited about these four kabocha squashes. This is all the winter squash I got this year, my smallest winter squash harvest ever. For a while I thought I would get none, so I am happy to have at least a few. Looking at the bright side, those are four heavy little squashes that I will not have to worry about keeping safe from mold and rodents during a long winter. They won’t last long…
Week after week the plants seemed so happy. They looked verdant and lush, unblemished, perfect. I’ve never seen such beautiful winter squash vines in my garden. Now, here’s the catch: those gorgeous plants did not produce female flowers. You tell me, what good is a squash plant without female flowers?
Every day I checked, ready to hand pollinate any female flower that came up. Most days I came back to the kitchen with a good handful of male flowers and no pollination needed. The total for the whole summer were five female flowers. One didn’t take and here you have the other four.
I guess it was our unusually cold summer that did it. Does heat trigger female flower production in squashes? It looks like it…
We eventually got heat, in the fall. As soon as the heat came powdery mildew covered those perfect verdant vines entirely. I’ve had it with the squash this year! I just pulled the plants, took the four kabochas, and didn’t even check whether they were ready for harvest or not. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t ripen properly, they’ll be eaten soon. I do hope they developed at least some of their characteristic sweetness. I do hope.
While the winter squash was driving me insane, another heat loving cucurbit was doing surprising well, a melon, the Ambrosia cantaloupe. I had chosen this variety precisely because it needs less heat than other varieties to develop an intense sweet flavor. I covered the soil with IRT mulch and hoped for the best. I couldn’t have chosen a better year to give this cantaloupe a try. We’ve been having a steady stream of pretty decent melons. Not fantastic, but better than any other local melons I tasted this year. They are as good as I can expect in cool weather and the last few ones harvested during these recent hot days have been very sweet. All in all a success that makes up for the poor showing of its cousin, the winter squash.
I’ve also been harvesting a variety of other heat loving vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, green beans have all been plentiful. A bonus of the cool temperatures was a constant supply of lettuce throughout the summer. Now that it is hot, the lettuce is starting to bolt but it still tastes pretty good. To round up the harvest I have some kale, onions and nopales.
For more delicious pictures and stories of harvests and to add your own, head on over to Daphne’s Dandelions, host of Harvest Monday, and take a look at what other gardeners have been up to this week.