Very few plants can rival the productivity of the squash, or calabaza. They come in two varieties, summer squash and winter squash, both grow in the spring and summer, but the difference is in the harvesting. The summer squash is harvested while the fruit is small and tender, before the seeds form; common examples are zucchini and sunburst squash. Winter squash is harvested at the end of the season and stored for the winter. Winter squash has a hard, and sometimes inedible skin, with mature seeds inside. Common examples of winter squash are pumpkins, acorn squash, and delicata. Squash do well transplanted or direct seeded in the soil; the planting season begins with the last frost and continues for most of the year. In addition they are drought tolerant and bug resistant. Sometimes it seems the hardest part is keeping up with all the harvesting.
Calabazas abound in our garden, with a few in every parcel and many in the common areas. During the peak season, one can visit the garden and leave with a bag of squash almost any day. Harvesting is the key to keeping your summer squash plants productive; if you leave a squash on the plant to long, the plant will put all of its energy into that one squash instead of making lots of tasty new fruit. Many gardeners have had the experience of skipping on their chores for a few days and returning to find a 2 foot zucchini hiding under the dense foliage. If this happens, don’t sweat it, the oversize ones are still good for zucchini bread. Each plant has a life span of a few months, before productivity drops. If you live somewhere with a long growing season, you can start seeds in waves and plant a second or third set of calabazas 1 to 2 months later and have an all year harvest. Winter squash are best planted early to allow maximum growing time; march is a good time to plant in warm areas, but planting in Early June will most likely give you a harvest in time for Halloween. Harvest your winter squash in the fall and store them for several months, refrigeration is not necessary.