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Sweet Meat

October 12, 2008

We didn’t get a killing frost, but our warm weather crops succumbed to the frost.  I like to bring in the squash before this happens, but I also like to leave the winter squash on the vine as long as possible, so it can mature.  So which fire to put out?  No matter how many lists we make, we usually have to change our plans, so last week decision time was here, what to save, and what to leave and hope it makes it through the frost.  There are only so many hours in the day, so the beans, not yet harvested got left on the vine, and we opted to pick the final tomatoes and harvest every last pepper, ripe or not.  The one thing that didn’t need to be on the list, because it gets harvested even by the light of the moon, no matter what – is the Sweet Meat winter squash.  These squash take us through the winter, they store without processing, and we enjoy them immensely as squash, in pies and cookies.  We roast the seeds, and the dogs eat the skins after the squash are cooked, nothing goes to waste.  Truly a vegetable for the self-reliant gardener.
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This is not quite mature, because of this it will not keep very long, so we will eat this first.  The flavor will not be fully developed, but at this stage they are still pretty tasty.  A fully mature winter squash will have deep orange flesh, instead of yellow.

Sometimes people ask why we don’t buy squash, or the other vegetables we grow.  Sometimes we explain, sometimes we don’t.  If we explain, we tell them, that the cucurbit family uptakes old pesticide residues from the soil, so buying or growing cucurbits organically is important.  And if we think they might “get it”  we tell them that I have been saving seeds of this heirloom for a long time, I want to keep growing and eating this squash.  Sometimes it comes down to cost, how much does an organic squash cost?  I honestly don’t know, I rarely go to the store, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t buy winter squash anyway, preferring to know where my squash comes from. How can I tell them that with less than the weight of a pee-wee hen egg in seeds, I grew over 500 pounds of squash, that will keep until time to plant next year.  Sometimes people don’t believe me, most of the time they don’t care.  A handful of seeds, 45 good sized squash means nothing to someone who thinks making a pumpkin pie from scratch, is opening a can of pureed pumpkin and mixing the filling and maybe venturing into a homemade pie crust.  To me scratch means I grew that pumpkin/squash from seed I saved, and I rendered the lard or churned the butter that I made the crust with.  I guess I really don’t qualify for extreme scratch since I didn’t grow the wheat to make the crust. But, you get the idea.

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Enough viable squash seeds to grow 500# of carotene rich winter food, that uses no electricity to store!

I weigh each one, and they are curing in the greenhouse.  I cover them at night to prevent freezing and uncover them during the day so they don’t gather moisture.   If we have a bout of rainy days coming up, I will move them into the house.  They should be cured at a warm 70ish temperature for a week or two, and then stored in cool, dry place.  For us, I usually cure them in the living room, and then we store them upstairs in the hallway.  We don’t heat the upstairs, so it meets the cool and dry requirement. 

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High tech, no need for a spread sheet, pencil and paper do just fine.

How long does it take to get from seed to pie?  All summer.  This year, I did something I have never done before with my cucurbits – I started them in pots, and transplanted.  Normally direct seeding is the best.  However, this year we could barely get the garden in because of continual rain, let alone plant tender crops like this.

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Seedlings, two plants per hill.


Twelve hills, I’m saving seed so I need many plants to keep vigor in my squash.  Not to say you can’t save seed from one squash or vegetable, and certainly if that was all you had it would be better than nothing.  But, you need a little diversity to keep your plant lines going.  I have no interest in reinventing the wheel as far as seed saving goes.  I try to follow the rules. (on this anyway)  Because I want to save seed from these and they are Cucurbita maxima, I will not grow any other maxima squash or pumpkins, because I cannot provide enough isolation.  It would be the same of any pepo (summer squash) or moschata  (butternut) types.  If you are saving seed, you should only grow one of each type.  The seed catalog you are ordering from, should state this information in the seed description or cultural needs box.  If it doesn’t, quit buying seeds from them.   Or if you are committed to a certain company, make sure you learn the varieties.
I save seed because I have a unique, and sometimes difficult microclimate, and because I want to be as self reliant as possible.  So I want a sure bet, it’s the same amount of work to grow a big squash vine with good tasting squash (insert any vegetable here) as it is growing a squash vine with low production and maybe mediocre tasting fruit.  I try not to waste my time.  I do garden like I can’t go to the store.

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The vine is getting corky, so while I would prefer to leave them to get a little corkier, the frost made harvesting imminent.


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Squash are heavy feeders.  Ample compost is important.  The vines take root wherever they touch down.  At the first of September I cut the vines back to fruit that I thought had a chance of maturing, and I detailed it in this post.

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The white mark indicates maturity.  I leave the stems on for better keeping.  I do not use the stems as handles.  As tough skinned as these babies are, we handle them with kid gloves, if a stem gets broken off, I try to use that squash as soon as I can.

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One shelf in the green house – many weeks of food 🙂

38 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2008 11:44 pm

    How nice to know what works best for your particular location! these are simply beautiful 🙂

  2. October 12, 2008 11:45 pm

    Ooops, correcting the spelling of my name. I only use Rjobbyn when I’m pining for the fjords… lol

  3. October 13, 2008 3:35 am

    I am looking into saving seeds this winter. My son bought me a book on saving seed, which will be read this winter. I have always wanted to do this, so now is the time. Any hints you could give me would be great. Thank you for all your wonderful posts.

  4. olddani permalink
    October 13, 2008 3:35 am

    How wonderful. I do wish someone in my family other than me enjoyed pumpkin (as we call them down here).

  5. October 13, 2008 4:22 am

    Very interesting, thanks for the post. What beautiful squash. Where did you get your original seeds?

    We’re in the process of switching to all heirloom seeds and we’re trying to start saving them each year. We only have a small city lot, but we like to grow as much as we can and since we’re trying to eat more locally and organically and seasonally, we are trying to grow things that can get us through the seasons. We’re big squash lovers, I have a pile sitting in my living room corner waiting to be made into soups, pies and other delicious things.

  6. October 13, 2008 7:46 am

    I would love to grow squash as you have and I did in New Zealand, but the weather here is so touch and go. I did manage to get two tiny, immature butternut squashes this year. I made them both into pie using a sweet potato pie recipe. Incidentally, what kind of squash is that blue-ish one in the photo? I grew something like it in NZ but never knew the name of it because the original one simply appeared one year in the compost bin. It was so sweet all the neighbours wanted seed from it. I found a Queensland Blue Hubbard seed from a company this year thinking it might be it (and it might) but it didn’t mature and produced nothing so I’ll never know.

  7. October 13, 2008 9:11 am

    What beautiful squash! The color of the skin and the meat looks very similar to Blue Hubbard. I wonder if the taste is similar.

    I wish I could grow winter squash around here, but I just simply don’t have the room.

    This was a great post, by the way. I like the in-depth posts about one particular variety. Thanks!

  8. October 13, 2008 9:56 am

    Everywhere I go on the net I seem to be getting a bad case of squash envy. We’ll do better next year. I think we were too ecclectic in our selections this year…

    Beautiful squash and thanks for the pointers…

  9. Kristen permalink
    October 13, 2008 10:02 am

    You have inspired me once again to try something I haven’t done before…I have never even heard of that kind of squash before. Hopefully next year I can save seed…so that gives me a little while to study up on the how to do it part. Thanks for all of you wisdom that you share with us newbies….:-)

  10. October 13, 2008 10:31 am

    They sound so wonderful! I am venturing into seed saving this year….mostly because of your example.

  11. October 13, 2008 11:01 am

    oh, YUMM! Squash similar to these are high on my list of “to-do’s” when I get myself moved. I once found a hubbard at the farmers market here that I longed to seed-save, but I didn’t have the heat to raise them to maturity in SF. I was told they were very rare; a 50-ish farmer was eagerly buying them and said she remembered them from her Native American childhood in central California.

    They were the tastiest I’ve ever had, and I’ve not seen them again. They were big, 20-25 pounds each, very long storing, and incredibly sweet.

    At the time I didn’t yet like squash, but I bought a chunk to try after listening to the conversation. I tossed it in the oven when I got home; when it was done I peeled and mashed it – I thought to pack up for dinner. Then I tasted it gingerly. I ate the whole thing on the spot for breakfast, and the next week bought several whole ones. Amazing flavor.

  12. October 13, 2008 11:52 am

    Would you be willing to share some seeds?

    • Zeak Rice permalink
      June 12, 2012 7:47 pm

      If you can’t find any seeds I have some.

      • June 12, 2012 9:02 pm

        Thanks Zeak, I have tons of seeds, and several squash leftover from last year to eat still 🙂

        • "Poppa" Jerry Bennett permalink
          October 29, 2012 9:47 pm

          You said you have some of the original seeds from Gill Brothers. Could you send me some, please. I just discovered this squash and would really like to grow it next year but don’t know source of those I bought. Please send to 800a NW Murray Blvd., Portland, OR 97229. Thanks, PoppaJerry

        • October 30, 2012 7:29 am

          Poppa, I don’t have any extra but Territorial Seed does, here is their description of the Sweet Meat squash.

  13. October 13, 2008 2:20 pm

    I’ve never seen that kind of squash before. I’ve come to really enjoy squash of all types, and I bet these are very tasty! How neat that the doggies get to enjoy bits of them, too! My grandma saved all her seeds, and her garden was amazing. I remember jars and packets of seeds in her cellar, which was also full of all her garden bounty. It’s gorgeous outside right now … brilliant sun yet cool. I “saw” Mt. Hood yesterday and it looked beautiful with all that fresh snow. Hope you are staying warm over on your side of the mountain! Oh, one more thing, love your egg scale! I swear that commercial eggs — even the free range organic ones — are getting smaller and smaller. Takes a million of them to make breakfast. Okay, okay not a million, but more than it should! 🙂

  14. October 13, 2008 5:42 pm

    Squash is one of my favorite vegetables. I am interested in learning more about seed saving, the only seeds I have saved in the past are pumpkins and marigolds…sad isn’t it?
    One thing at a time!

  15. October 14, 2008 10:10 pm

    Robbyn, hey my girlfriend has some Fjords – she never uses them, maybe you could work out a trade! She likes limes! 😉

    Becky, thanks for stopping by, I think I should do a post on seed saving, since it is on everyone’s mind these days. Thanks for your kind words.

    olddani, we use them like pumpkins. I wish I was the only one who liked them, then I would have to share.

    Susy, I got my original seeds from a family friend, and they are originally from a Portland seed company called Gill Brothers. Now Fedco Seeds and Nichols Garden Nursery sells the seeds. They are great and very similar to Hubbard squash which is hard to ripen here.

    Once you start growing your own food, a pile of squash in the livingroom is commonplace 😉

    HDR, the squash is Sweet Meat, available from Fedco Seeds, or Nichols Garden Nursery. It is like a small Hubbard, but a different shape, and smaller, these are usually 10-20# with 14# being the average size. I always have ripe squash with these.

    I can’t get butternut squash to ripen here, have you tried Delicata, or Ambercup? They are smaller and might ripen for you.

    Taylor, they are very similar to Hubbard, in taste and texture. I’ve sometimes heard them called the “hubbard of the west”

    But, you’re right they do take up a huge amount of space.

    Thanks on the post compliment, I always wonder if I go on too much about 1 single thing. Everyday, I could post about 10 different things – but by the end of the day it usually is actually hard to think of something that isn’t too mundane. Who would think squash would be so interesting!!

    Gary, Hi, squash envy is bad, I hear it is contagious 😉

    Kristen, your climate may give you more choices than me, but maybe squash bugs too 😦 I think it is too cool here for the vine borers. But, now they will probably descend on my garden since I said that! Thank you.

    Threecollie, thanks, how’s that lettuce seed doing?

    Hayden, these are very similar to Hubbards, but easier to ripen, I think SF is similar to here. Maritime climates are so different. You probably can raise even Hubbards, and they keep so good until you need them.

    Emily, I’m almost out of seeds. But, you can get them at Fedco Seeds or Nichols Garden Nursery pretty cheaply.

    Paula, your Grandmothers cellar sounds wonderful, what great memories. She probably knew exactly what was the best plant to save seed from too, in order to get the best crop.

    Did you see the lenticular cloud, it was beautiful. I had to go do a pasture consulting “job” on Sunday, and from the pasture you could see Hood, Adams and St Helens. Beautiful, I could hardly keep my eyes on the pasture, plus we were right on the edge of the Gorge – if I get the job, I’ll post some pics.

    That’s Eggman’s (DH) scale, but he let me use it to try and weigh my seeds. I found that scale on ebay of all places. Our hens are starting to slow down a little, so eggs are getting a little scarce around here. The doggies get a yolk a day, so they are getting nervous 😉

    Kim, you guys had a great squash harvest this year! Did you sell them all, or are you keeping some for winter for yourselves?

    That isn’t sad about you saving seeds, you have to start somewhere – you’ve got a head start!

  16. October 17, 2008 3:47 am

    Great post. Love those pics!

  17. October 20, 2008 11:28 am

    Thanks for the tips on the kind of squash I might try next year! I managed to ripen ONE of the ‘Queensland Blue’ that I planted, but it isn’t blue. Looks nothing like the above photo which is what I was hoping for.

    Incidentally, the grizzly bears like the squash too. I found squash seeds and cucumber seeds in the poop I passed yesterday while tracking the fox I shot.

  18. November 25, 2008 7:31 am

    hey – would it be possible for me to buy a few seeds of this squash? I’m just a beginning non-GMO/heirloom gardener and am trying to gather seeds from known sources WITH recomendations! That means little or no catalog purchases. So far my stash includes tomato, green beans and cantelope (musk melon) from a local Amish family.

    Thank you so much! Hope to hear from you soon!

  19. Sue Croteau permalink
    June 10, 2011 10:58 am

    I bought small plants of sweetmeat squash by accident. How do you cook them???? boiled like butternut or baked like hubbard:::

    I’m in Downeast Maine. Can’t wait to harvest them.

    • June 10, 2011 3:53 pm

      Sue, I actually steam them since it takes less time, but baked is great too 🙂

      • cleisme permalink
        September 4, 2011 6:00 pm

        If you bake them, it makes the densest, sweetest, best pumpkin pie you’ll ever eat. Period. I grow multiple plants and choose growing quality over quantity.

        • September 7, 2011 7:40 pm

          cleisme, I save seeds from the best tasting and keeping squash. To feed us over winter and into spring we need quantity also.

  20. Zeak Rice permalink
    June 12, 2012 9:04 pm

    Excellent post!! Squash is my favorite vegetable. Sweet Meat n Kabocha my top 2. This year I’m trying Sweet Meat ‘Oregon Homestead’ strain, Katy’s Sweet (Sweet Meat Type) and ‘Sugar Loaf’ Hessel strain. [All from Nichols Garden]. Lastly, one called ‘Sweet Keeper’ from Seeds of Change. All Sweet Meat but the sugar loaf. The ‘Sweet Meat’ originated in Oregon and some of the locals have kept the original alive and/or improved on it since the Gill Brother’s got bought out by Harris Seed. The ‘Sugar Loaf’ was developed by Dr. James Baggett another Oregon breeder. Mike Hessel worked under him and saved some of the original line of ‘Sugar Loaf’ while most of the commercial ‘Sugar Loaf’ squash deteriorated [some say they got mixed with gourds and became bitter, but who knows] I live in Seattle so am interested in N.W. or cool weather veggies.

    • June 13, 2012 5:06 am

      Zeak, you’ll love the Sweet Meat, I have the original Gill brothers strain that I have grown here for about 30 years and it does well each summer. A major staple here.

  21. arabianknits permalink
    July 19, 2012 4:31 pm

    I know this is an older post, but I we grow our own squash and are trying to figure out how many we need to grow to support the feeding of our family and growing the following year with saved seeds. How many sweet meats do you try to store over winter? We are a family of nine. I have sweet meat, sucrine du berry, silver edged and winter luxury growing in our garden in central Washington right now. That covers all four kinds of squash to try to reduce our cross pollination issues. However, I do like summer squash, so was wondering if you had any easy for a big family type hints on hand pollination since there are two summer squash we really like and winter luxury is a pepo as well. We have about a quarter to a third of an acre of garden space, so we have some room to separate them as well.

    Now I’m going to read up on how you cut the plants back to strengthen the fruit. We are making our pathetic foray into homesteading. We are trying to raise as much as we can for our family, to minimize our dependence on stores. We try to buy or trade locally as much as we can for what we can’t raise ourselves. We’ve got chickens, turkeys and honeybees. The poultry get our squash rinds, and they also get some of the seeds and innards as a natural wormer.

    • July 19, 2012 8:01 pm

      AK, we usually store about 500 pounds which works out to be about 30 – 35 Sweet Meats, on average we use one a week, and this year we still have some left. With fresh stuff coming in from the garden, it’s hard to dig in to one of those old squashes 😦 I think they will end up as livestock food.

      Separating helps, but bees really like to roam. Here is a good article by Carol Deppe about hand pollinating.

      Good luck to you on your homesteading, each year will get better!

  22. Tony permalink
    May 24, 2014 5:58 pm

    Living in Brisbane CA, growing sweet meat for 3 years now!

  23. October 30, 2016 8:26 am

    Thanks for the great sweet meat posting. A friend had mentioned hers was bitter, so I was doing some research, and I think you solved the mystery. I bet the saved seeds were cross pollinated with a bitter melon or cucumber, resulting in a bitter offspring. Great site and info, I look forward to delving further. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us.

  24. Cherie Hansen permalink
    October 24, 2017 2:58 pm

    I was told to take the seeds out of another sweet meat squash and rinse them well then put them into a bowl of water to soak, then the seeds that sink to the bottom are the good ones! Well why out of A whole squash not 1 seed sunk? Please help, Thank you 🙂

    • November 21, 2017 10:38 am

      Are they fat and full? Cut one open and see, if they have a seed inside the white coat they are good if they are empty they didn’t get pollinated and there is no seed. I never treat them to the water bath, I just pull out the fat seeds and discard the rest.


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