Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Crop of the Week: Spaghetti Squash


The Spaghetti Squash takes the first spot of the crop of the week! This awesome plant is a type of winter squash that can be used to replace pasta. It is fairly easy to grow, keeps fresh at room temperature for a very long time, and provides a healthy alternative food for those on a low-carb diet, such as those who are trying to control diabetes or simply trying to lose weight! I grew spaghetti squash last year, so I wouldn't call myself a spaghetti squash expert, but it is probably my favorite plant I've ever grown!



History. Spaghetti Squash originated in Asia, specifically China, and wasn't introduced to Japan until 1921. Originally, it was called Somen Nankin. When it was brought to the United States, it was first marketed as Vegetable Spaghetti, which led to the name we know today.

Growing and Harvesting 8/10. I found this vegetable very easy to grow. They do best in full sun and will need watered regularly if it is not raining much, especially during the end of summer. They can do well in most zones, if they are given proper care and planted at the right times! It is recommended that you use plastic or garden fabric with this plant, but I personally did not. I weeded regularly, but the vines seemed very resistant to weeds anyway, simply growing right through them. I also planted on the ground rather than giving them something to climb. While this left a light side on the fruit, it did not seem to cause any major problems. On thing I noticed is that these plants are absolutely huge. One of my vines extended well over ten feet from where I originally planted it! If you don't have a huge yard, you will definitely have to grow these plants vertically. They harvest in late summer and early fall. To harvest the plant, I clipped them off, leaving about 1.2-2 inches of stem. I read that a longer stem allows the plant to keep better. 

Storing 10/10. I stored my squash on my counter, tried one, and then forgot that they were sitting there. For six months, they remained on my counter. Periodically, I would notice them and say to myself "Oh! I should fix one of those for dinner tomorrow!" but didn't. By the time I finally got around to making one, they had been sitting out on my counter for a very long time! To my surprise, they were still perfectly fine and fresh! Their thick skin protected them from decay all fall and winter, keeping them safe to eat all that time. If you're a prepper, this plant needs to be in your garden. If the power went out or you couldn't go to the grocery store, you would still be able to eat fresh veggies in the middle of winter if you have a few of these babies stored in your pantry! 

Uses and Flavor 9/10. To me, Spaghetti Squash was not very flavorful. It was sort of like drinking cucumber water. However, this very mild flavor makes it very versatile! It takes on whatever flavor it is paired with, so it tastes great when cooked with many different things! I've tried zucchini spaghetti, which I sort of liked, but not as well. This tasted much better and was easier to prepare! To prepare a Spaghetti Squash, cut it in half (this takes some elbow grease) and then steam the halves. To do this, I place the halves in a pan skin-side down, covered, with about one inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Then I place them in the over at about 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. It can take more or less time depending on the size of the squash. After it is steamed, take the squash out and use a fork to shred the vegetable. Scoop out the long fibers into a bowl. You can then use those for a variety of dishes. Pair them with marinara and cheese for spaghetti, use them to make a stir fry, or simply add them as a base to your salad! This has just a forth the calories of regular pasta, and is much better for you. This is a great alternative for those with diabetes, or who are on a low-carb diet for other reasons!

Breakdown

Pros:
Versatile, can be used in many dishes
Stores for a very long time
Fairly easy to grow

Cons:
Require a lot of space
May require plastic or garden fabric

Our Score: 9/10

You should definitely try growing Spaghetti Squash if you have the space! I love how quickly it grows and how many uses it has. It's easily one of my absolute favorite plants to grow!

Sources:
http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Spaghetti_Squash_4145.php