So what is delicata squash anyway? It is an oblong shaped squash with green or orange lines running from end to end. It is actually classified as a winter squash but has a thin skin (similar to summer squash) that can be eaten. The delicate skin is the basis for its name. Even though it is technically a winter squash, it does not store as well as other winter squash though because of its skin. It is a cultivar of the species called Cucurbita pepo. Other common names for this squash are peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash.
I have to admit that I had never even heard of Delicata Squash until last year when I learned that 228 Master Gardeners from 49 counties across Minnesota conducted seed trials on this plant. Six different varieties were tested. Master gardeners were looking for the best germination rates, how well the seeds grew, which ones tasted best including texture, and insect and disease susceptibility, as well as a few other factors. Click here to learn more about how this particular squash type performed.
This squash appears to be growing in popularity since Cornell University’s Plant Breeding department developed a non-hybrid open pollinated variety around twenty years ago which was more mildew disease resistant. Master Gardeners across the state found it was easy to grow. What some of us didn’t know was what to do with it once harvested.
Delicata squash is primarily roasted but can also be steamed, sauteed, and microwaved. Some recipes call for the squash to be stuffed with meat or other vegetables. I knew it was becoming popular when Country Living had an article on “31 Ways to Use Delicata Squash for Dinner Tonight” (October 22, 2021) among other websites/magazines.
Delicata squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium but not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squashes. However, if you want to try something different, consider growing this product in your garden this year. Sow seed in the garden in late May to early June, or start seeds indoors in late April. Make sure to pick squash before a hard freeze.
Check out our Master Gardener videos on growing Delicata Squash: “How, When’s, Where’s,” “Delicata Squash Borer Protection,” “Delicata Squash Borer,” and “Delicata Squash Harvest.”
Photo Credit: Gurney's Seed and Nursery,creative Commons Licenses (1) & Centerstagewellness.com, Flickr Pro (2)