In watching this season pass into the next we have all received a new surge of fervor about enlarging the garden and have dug more than six new beds for a spring planting. After turning a little manure into the beds we had planted this year, I am impressed with how far the soil has come. It is absolute bliss. My shovel just sinks into the dirt and what I turn over is not sewn tightly together with gnarly roots. It falls to pieces with even a mild suggestion. What will it be like in two years? Five?
The winter squash plants were the only things I was still attached to. They are an heirloom squash called 'Sweet Meat' rumored to be long keeping. To keep them the full six months after harvest they need to ripen fully on the vine. We read that they cannot ripen with temperatures below 50 and the thermometer has been hovering there on the warmer days despite my fond encouragement. We picked the first of these in September to measure its progress. It weighed 14 pounds and was a pale yellow inside. We waited at least three weeks before trying another. The second one weighed in at 25 pounds and was deeper orange, but still not where we hoped it would be. The forecast began calling for a frost followed by four days with lows in the 40s and highs in the upper 60s. I really wanted those extra four days, but they changed their tune yesterday and began predicting a widespread freeze with a low hitting 31 between 4:00 and 8:00 am. We decided to pick half the squash and leave the rest to ripen without competition. At 10:15 pm last night Garth checked the temperature. It was 30 with a clear sky. We had to go for the rest. With a headlamp and the tractor Edmund went up the to garden and we followed. We hunted through the crunchy foliage for the rest of the squash and loaded them into the bucket of the tractor. The ground sparkled with frost.
The thermometer read 22 degrees this morning. The squash plant itself looked like the wicked witch of the west in her post melt phase. I am grateful Garth had the thought to look at the temperature last night.
You are meant to cure them for two weeks inside at a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees. Our house is a solid 52 degrees most days, so no luck for them there, but at least we have them in now. The one we opened a week ago is quite good. We have incorporated it into every meal apart from breakfast and we still have one half of it untouched. If you visit us this winter I am sure you'll have some if all goes well.