It's the depths of winter here in the UK with only 'stored' UK grown food such as carrots and potatoes in the shops, or food flown in from near and far locations such as Morocco or Kenya.
This year is especially challenging in the UK as much of our fresh produce this time of year comes from Spain or Italy and they had some cold weather so crops were ruined and now there is a courgette shortage.
Fortunately last summer we grew and stored spaghetti squash! While the UK is reaching into the freezer or cans we're reaching back into the cabinets to eat a little home grown goodness.
What is spaghetti squash?
In a nutshell it's a squash that has flesh that separates like pasta, it's quite popular in the States where I come from, especially with low carb eaters. Here is a full rundown of its details.
As you can see from our allotment photos, it grows like its cousin, the pumpkin. It needs a bit of room to spread out. Our plants each would support five squash at one time. After one was picked it would then continue to grow more.
Here was the peak of summer harvest last year, in July. Spaghetti squash are shorter than a long carrot or cucumber but have a nice sized girth.
You'll know that your squash are ready to be harvested when you knock on them and you get a hollow thump. A second indicator is if you twist the stem and it immediately pops free. If you test one carefully and slowly you can leave it another week or two if needed without damaging it.
Once you've harvested your spaghetti squash, it is important to 'cure' them. So you cut the vine and then allow them a week to 10 days to dry out a little. You can cure them in their growing position if it is same from nibbling creatures or move them elsewhere. The important part is that they get some sunshine to help the yellow colour to develop a little further and to dry out the stem.
Once your squash are cured, keep them in a cool, dry place. In my case, that was the top shelf of a wardrobe. You want your squash to not be touching each other and safe from critters such as mice.
Your squash should last you into spring when kept at the right temperature.
How do you prepare a spaghetti squash?
Some will say to slice lengthwise but others prefer slicing through the middle. You can even slice a number of rings if slicing across.
I prefer the lengthwise method as the strands go 'around' the squash. If you slice up and down you get shorter 'spaghetti'.
Here is after my slicing action:
Next, get out a spoon and remove the seeds, just like if you were taking them out of a pumpkin.
Here are my two sides post-seed removal:
Next rub a little oil onto the fleshy round rings and pop them into the oven to roast.
It depends on your oven and squash size, I run them at about 170 C for 30 minutes. You want to have a little bit of browning like here. You'll know it is ready if you give it a poke with a fork and the strands separate easily.
Now it's time to remove the strands. I use a regular fork and hold it over a bowl like this:
Here we are halfway through:
Almost there. It's surprising how much one little squash can produce!
Here is our finished version:
For estimation purposes, I'd say that one squash can feed three adults if used in place of spaghetti and included in a meal that has other items such as garlic bread and meatballs.
It's an awesomely versatile thing to grow as it can
- be cooked to please multiple tastes: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, low carb or even used in place of pasta for carnivores
- be used as a new texture/filler to add nutrition in basic casseroles, bakes and enchiladas
- be stored to last you through winter when vegetable prices are higher and availability is lower