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Spaghetti Squash: A Vegetable With a Surprise Inside

by: Liz Roberts

What vegetable holds a surprise?

The spaghetti squash!

image of spaghetti squash cut open to show the inside.Cut it open and you’ll see a whole dish of pasta! The squash’s interior is just like your favorite brand of noodles and can be served in any pasta or lo mein dish. An even bigger surprise is that the spaghetti squash is relatively easy to grow. Plant a few for stress free gardening. Even a novice green thumb can cultivate them and get a successful harvest.

Spaghetti squash is a winter squash (Cucurbita pepo) and belongs in the same category as the acorn, dumpling and delicata squashes. Winter squashes are a misnomer. They are usually harvested in the fall and kept throughout the colder months (hence the name). Spaghetti squash can either have yellow or orange skin and are oblong shaped. Their sizes vary, making it perfect for any type of garden. For smaller plots, consider growing the compact “Tivoli” it matures in only ninety to one hundred days, perfect for gourmands who are eager to create new dishes with it's flesh. Its’ fruits are large however, growing ten inches in length. The Tivoli’s skin is a rich creamy yellow. If you want a more picturesque squash, then consider the Vegetable Spaghetti kind. This will grow long vines that can wrap around any trellis or fence, adding to the rustic beauty of your backyard. The Vegetable Spaghetti produces heavy fruits weighing anywhere from two to four pounds. If you decide on this squash, remember you also have to support the fruit with slings made from old pantyhose. Vegetable Spaghetti is a creamy yellow color, usually reaching its; harvest within a three month time span. Looking for a more nutritious squash (although all of them are chock full of vitamins)? Then try growing “Hasta La Pasta” s which are rich in Vitamin A. They are smaller than the other types and are a bright orange in appearance. Whatever kind you decide on must be planted in a warm, sunny location with well drained soil. The dirt should also be slightly acidic with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Do a soil test before planting if you’re not sure.

Most squashes need a lot of room to grow. Plant your seedlings four feet apart in rows of ten to fifteen feet apart. You have to space the smaller varieties usually 2 feet apart with rows with rows 4 feet apart. The vining ones, such as the Vegetable Spaghettis have to be planted 4 feet apart. If growing vertically on trellises, then space seeds and plants 15 to 18 inches from each other. Depending on where you live you can plant anywhere from late May to early August. Remember, however, that spaghetti squash can become easily infested with diseases and pests during the early Fall season. Planting too early or too late may also affect your plants. Cold soil can inhibit growth and even cause seeds to rot. Wait until the earth has been warmed and there is no danger of any frost. You may want to cover the ground with black plastic sheeting to warm it up faster. When planting, add a good shovel full of either manure or compost. You can also use ½ cups of complete organic fertilizer. Use an additional ½ cup more after your plants begin to vine. Plant several seeds together in a group 1 to 11/2 inches deep. If you are planting seedlings, then plant three plants per hole. Squash plants should get roughly one inch of water per week so water on a weekly basis. Water biweekly if you’re in a dryer climate. If you’re going to plant squash every year, then rotate the crops to different areas of your garden. Control weeds with shallow cultivation or using organic mulch to stop them.

Once in the developmental stages, the squashes become monoecious; growing both male and female flowers. The female flowers will have a large swelling just beneath their flowers. This will develop into the fruit that will be pollinated mainly by bees (as well as other insects). Strangely enough cross pollinating affects next year’s harvest. You can hand pollinate for a purer crop.. Just cover the plants with paper bags to prevent any bee or other insect pollination.

Pollinating insects are the only helpful bugs for your squash. There are others that you have to watch for because these could decimate your whole plot. Be on the lookout for cucumber beetles(both the striped and the spotted varieties),squash bugs and vine borers. The first is your squash’s worst enemy. If there is corn growing nearby, it will hide and lay its’ eggs in corn stubble. Remove any nearby stalks. If your plants are suffering an infestation, then cover them with a lightweight, floating fabric (gauze or muslin will do the trick). Remove once the plants are ready for pollination. Surround them with yellow sticky traps (you can buy these at your nursery). They are effective in trapping the beetles. Squash bugs are just as deadly. They can lay hordes of yellowish orange colored eggs on the leaves undersides. To get rid of them, you can purchase their enemies, tachinid flies to eat them. For a more gentler approach, plant natural repellent plants such as radishes, nasturtiums or marigolds as your plants' companions. The last insect , the vine borer,is a type of caterpillar that bores into the stems of the squash vines. Control these pests with a hot pepper/garlic repellent spray. If that doesn’t work, then buy their natural predators, trichogramma wasps from your local nursery or insectery. You can also mound mulch or soil over the vines to protect them.

Harvesting your spaghetti squash occurs once it has reached its’ buttery yellow or deep orange coloring. The vine tendril opposite the fruit will be now positioned opposite it and will also be brown and shriveled. Another sign of maturity is the squashes' skins hardening. Carefully cut your squash from its’ vines, leaving two inches of stem attached if possible. Avoid cutting and bruising fruit. Store your squash in a cool, dry place such as your basement (temps should be between 50 and 55 degrees. F for storage).

Spaghetti squash is a great vegetable to grow. Not only is it easy to care for but also fun to harvest. After all , it holds a neat surprise inside. You can’t say that for a potato!

Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry

  • 1 spaghetti squash cooked.
  • 1 package tofu chicken (12 oz.)
  • 1 cup broccoli florettes
  • 1 cup julienned red and yellow peppers
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Handful of sesame seeds
  • Vegetable oil for frying.

You can either prepare your spaghetti squash by baking or by microwaving,

Baking method – Pierce the skin (shell) in several places. Put squash in a baking pan and bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours in a 350 degree oven.

Microwave method – cut squash in half and place cut side up in a large, microwave safe dish with ¼ cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap. Using a fork, piece wrap in several places to allow steam to escape. Microwave on high for 20 minutes or until shell gives in to pressure.

In a wok, or large skillet, pour enough oil for quick frying. Simmer on a low heat for a few minutes to heat up oil. Add tofu chicken pieces, vegetables and chopped garlic. Fry until tofu is brown and crispy. Sprinkle in sesame seeds and stir fry for a few more minutes. Pour over spaghetti squash. Add soy sauce if you’d like.

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