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Crazy squash just looks like a football

Weird on the outside, delicious on the inside: Crazy squash. (Photos:
Debbie Arrington)
Recipe: Winter (mystery) squash looks challenging, but results are versatile and delicious

By Debbie Arington

It’s time to tackle the crazy squash.

The last of the fall harvest can linger for months. (That’s why pumpkins make such great decorations.) Hard-shelled squash will keep without refrigeration for weeks. That’s why they’re nicknamed “winter squash”; you can eat them “fresh” from October through March (or longer).

But some winter squash can be a formidable challenge. First, what is it? Like all members of the squash and pumpkin family, these plants can easily cross, creating mysterious hybrids.

That’s how I ended up with a bunch of crazy squash. From the outside, they looked sort of like banana squash, but not quite as big (thankfully). Maybe they had papaya squash or more likely butternut squash in their parentage; their size and shape reminded me of a football, only rounder. (A rugby ball, perhaps?)

Their insides, once cooked, tasted like pumpkin. So, that made these squash crazy versatile, too. They can go savory or sweet.

So how do you approach a football-size mystery? First, wash the skin well, scrubbing off any accumulated grime. With a long sharp knife on a firm cutting surface, cut in half, then quarters. That makes it easier to scrap out the seeds.

Quartering the squash makes removing the seeds easier.
After seeding, peel the skin and cut the flesh into 1-inch chunks. Those chunks can be steamed; they’ll be tender in about 20 to 30 minutes. The cooked flesh can be mashed and used in any pumpkin recipe such as pumpkin bread, soup or cookies.

Those chunks also make a great side dish on their own by simply roasting. They make a tasty (and vitamin-packed) accompaniment to hearty winter meals that’s crazy good for you, too. Who knew you could enjoy “garden-fresh” fresh squash in February?

Roasted crazy squash
Serves 4 to 6

Steam the chunks and mash them to use in recipes as you
would with pumpkin. Or roast them.
6 cups winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Seasoning salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large baking dish, toss squash cubes with oil and seasoning until well coated. Bake squash at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until squash is tender. Serve.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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