Squash – Sweet Dumpling

I nearly cried when I saw a neighbour displaying these in their front garden for Halloween, probably to be discarded once the frost had turned them to mush. What a waste of one of the best tasting squashes you can grow. It is a little bundle of chestnutty goodness.

Each fist sized little squash is a delightful single portion. Best sliced in half, deseeded and roasted but you can also use in soups, risottos and pies. Personally I eat the skin but you can peel them if you prefer.

To grow squash, sow in April undercover. I like to sow in root trainers which are long thin pots which split open to release the plant for planting. They are ideal for big seeds or plants that don’t like having their roots disturbed. Fill the root trainer with compost. Push one to two seeds per root trainer about 1.5 cm deep. Water and top up with compost if needed. Keep moist but not damp. If the squash gets too big for the root trainer before you can plant in the ground you will need to plant in to a larger pot. You will probably have to pot on at least once before planting out. The addition of heat in the form of a propagator or warm room when sowing will increase success.

Plant out after all risk of frost has passed, with each plant at least 1 meter apart.  Squash are sprawling plants that like to grow in full sun, in a very fertile but well drained soil, enriched with copious amounts of well rotted manure. Water well at the base of the plant during warmer weather. A stick placed at the base of the plant on planting out can be a useful way of finding the base again once your squash plant has turned in to a monster. Just as it is hard to over water your squash, it is almost impossible to overfeed it. These are hungry plants and will relish weekly feeding.

In the kitchen: If you have ever only tired butternut squash from supermarkets the flavour of this squash will blow you away. Peeling can be a little difficult because of it’s ridge texture. I tend to halve it, remove the seeds, spray with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until lightly browned and tender. You can then easily scoop out the flesh if you don’t want to eat the skin.

Plant health and yield: The only slightly disappointing thing about sweet dumpling is that you will not get many more squash on a plant than normal squash, probably about 7, which because of it’s small size means you don’t get a great yield. In very damp weather you can also get rotting off the fruit. To combat this I am trying to grow up trellis to lift the fruit from the ground and makes the flowers more visible to insects. You can also hand pollinate using a small paint brush. Having said that although the yield is small it is still worth growing. Plants are healthy and it has an RHS AGM at the time of publishing.

Grow again? Every year