It’s September, which means it’s time to start harvesting the storage crops planted back in the spring—winter squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Timing the winter squash harvest is can be a challenge. Ideally, we wouldn’t have to harvest them at all. They would ripen in the field, the vines would die back, and we’d leave them to cure in the sun. As they cure, their sugars concentrate and their skins harden, making them both sweet and long lasting. We’d then haul them out as needed.
Unfortunately, winter squash are vulnerable to rodents, and this year has been especially bad, given that the drought has made our dutifully watered crops that much more tempting. So we’ve adjusted accordingly, waiting for signs that the squash are just about ripe, and then swooping in before the rodents can get to them. For many Long Islanders, pumpkin picking means trekking across a moonscape of compacted dirt scattered with giant pumpkins. For us, it means trampling through knee-high vines, trying to find the squash hiding beneath. It also means repeatedly being fooled by the squash that look fine from above, but which have been hollowed out by chipmunks from beneath. These, obviously, are left behind. Then we lay out the good squash in the greenhouses to cure.
Not all squash need to cure, so we’ll kick off the fall with delicata, spaghetti, and acorn squash. By mid-October, we’ll start distributing the pumpkins and butternut. The rodents will get some, but they won’t get all!