Featured Foods:

Winter Squash

What is “squash” anyway?


They’re heavy, they’re a bit thick-skinned, and they can be really hard to cut into! But with a bit of cooking, you’ll soon discover a sweet treat inside!


Did you know that a pumpkin is a kind of squash? We don’t just carve faces into them for Halloween, either. Pumpkins are also used for making pies, breads, or even roasting the seeds.

Just a couple weeks after planting the squash seeds in the garden bed, sprouts begin to grow quickly. In very little time, vines are growing and spreading all around!

Types of Squash

Squash are separated into two kinds: the summer squashes and the winter squashes. It’s not that some grow in warm weather and some in cold weather. It’s more to do with how long they can be stored without rotting, and when they historically would have been eaten.


Squash grow on vines, which are long stems that keep growing longer and longer. These vines tend to be a bit prickly, too, so many animals (like deer) avoid eating them. Flowers then appear along the vines, and when pollinated by insects, will start growing into the squash fruit. The plants need to have lots and lots of nutrients in the soil to grow big and healthy.


Summer squash, like zucchini and yellow squash, are tasty when sliced and cooked in a frying pan or over the grill. They are also fun to make into noodles and eat like spaghetti. This requires a kitchen gadget called a “spiralizer”, and some help from and adult for the aspiring chef.

Winter Squash in the Kitchen

Winter squash can be cut in half and baked, but be careful! Cutting into a fresh squash can be very difficult and is for grown-ups only. They can also be roasted whole (get some help poking a few holes in them), and eaten with some added butter and brown sugar, or mashed like potatoes. Just remember to scoop out the seeds!


Any squash seeds scooped out of a fresh squash can be set out in a dry location to dry, and then stored in an envelope or paper bag for planting next season. If you find an especially favorite type of squash, this is a great way to make sure you’ve got more for next year!


Winter squash – buttercup and acorn  – both making a tasty fall or winter treat!

A squash vine. Look closely for the prickly hairs on the stem, and also notice the tendrils, reaching out to grab the netting as the squash plant climbs upward


How do I get my winter squash started?

First, you will need to find some seeds! You will need an adult’s help with this, probably. You could get seeds out of a fresh organic squash purchased from the store or a farmer’s market, or seeds can be bought in packets, ready to be planted.


Squash vines become very large very quickly. They should not be planted outside until the time of spring when no more frost will happen. Also, they grow too fast to make starting indoors work very well.


Choose a part of the garden where they can have some space to spread and grow– they will need several feet around them. Once you have your spot, you will want to add some compost to the area (an adult may have to help you out here too, whether it’s getting compost from your own compost pile, or getting some from the garden store). Make sure the compost is organic if possible.


Build up a mound of dirt and compost, or fill up a raised bed. Then plant a few of the squash seeds in the middle of the pile, and cover with an inch or so of soil. Water them well. In a few days you will have sprouts start to appear. Make sure that you water them every day, unless you have some rain.

Once the seeds sprout, the vines will grow and spread very quickly. Some gardeners put some supports and a trellis for the vines to grow, while others just make sure there is plenty of room around the vines for them to spread and grow. Always make sure that they have plenty of water during the growing season, and try to not let the dirt completely dry out.

Over the next couple months, the vines will continue to grow and spread, and then bright orange flowers will appear. Insects will come collect pollen from the flowers, and at the same time “pollinate” the flowers. Because of these insects’ pollination, the flowers will be able to develop the squash fruit. Once the squash itself appears, it will be a couple more weeks or so until it is ready to be picked. In very little time, you will have some delicious squash ready to take into the kitchen and start cooking!

Need some squash recipes? Head over to our Recipes feature to learn more!


Dr. Stefanie

“In very little time, you will have some delicious squash ready to take into the kitchen and start cooking!”