Sweet meat squash is an old heirloom variety commonly grown in the Pacific Northwest. The sweet flesh is delicious baked or roasted, or used in pies and muffins. Sweet meat squash is a flat, slate gray when ripe. Its lack of color may make it difficult to determine maturity. Look for other indicators of ripeness.
Sweet meat squashes need 115 days, or four months, to mature when grown from seed. Plant them two weeks after the last expected frost for a late fall harvest. They are typically one of the last vegetables to harvest from the garden. In areas with short seasons, start the sweet meat squash indoors to ensure ripening before fall frosts.
Sweet meat squash may not have a lot of color, but changes in color can indicate ripeness. Immature sweet meat squashes are green. As the squash matures, the green becomes mottled with gray or creamy spots. Mature sweet meat squash is uniformly creamy gray. The shell becomes less glossy, as well.
The rinds of sweet meat squash become harder as the fruit matures. Nick the fruit slightly with your fingernail. If it gives easily, the fruit is immature. The tendrils around the base of the fruit may become withered, as well. Cut the fruit off the vine with a sharp knife, leaving 1 inch of the stem intact. Store the fruit in a warm location for two weeks to cure it. Then move it to an unheated basement or cellar for long-term storage. Use sweet meat squash within three to four months.
Leave sweet meat squash in the garden to continue ripening until the first heavy frost. Once frost is predicted, harvest the sweet meat squash. Frost kills the vines and causes the squash to spoil more quickly.
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Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."
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