This low-carb alternative to traditional wheat flour-based pasta really can grow almost anywhere. Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita pepo), a vining annual plant, grows in any hardiness zone that has a long enough growing season for fruit to mature. Like other members of the melon family, spaghetti squash needs heat to germinate and grow well, and requires 80 to 100 days of frost-free weather after seed is sown to produce fruit.
Spaghetti squash produces oblong fruit, rounded at the ends and about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide. The skin is hard when the squash is ripe, and ranges in color from ivory to yellow or orange, depending on the cultivar. The flesh is ivory-colored to yellow, with seeds filling the medium-sized interior cavity. When you rake the cooked flesh with a fork, it breaks into long cylindrical fibers that resemble strands of spaghetti, and has a sweet, nutty flavor. Flowers are yellow to orange and either male or female.
Cultivars with long vines include "Vegetable," with ivory skin and a 90-day maturation; "Spaghetti," with yellow skin and good keeping quality; and "Pasta." Bush types take up less space and have smaller fruit. "Hasta La Pasta" combines compact growth with orange rind and orange flesh that's sweeter and more flavorful than white-fleshed cultivars. Semi-bush types "Hi Beta Gold" and "Orangetti" have bright orange skins and orange flesh, with maturation times of 73 and 75 days respectively. "Small Wonder" is a bush type with single-serving-size 4-inch by 5-inch orange-skinned fruits that have exceptional flavor and only needs 70 days to mature. "Tivoli" has a bush habit, with squash similar to those of the long-vine types.
In U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 and above, sow seeds directly into the garden after all danger of frost is past. In USDA zones 4 and below, start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date for your area. Plant seeds in 2 1/4-inch well-draining pots filled with a potting mix that contains perlite or vermiculite. To lessen transplant shock, use peat pots. Gradually accustom seedlings to outdoor conditions over the course of a week before planting them in the garden. Amend the soil with compost or aged manure before planting seeds or transplants, and don't grow spaghetti squash in the same place a second year -- alternate with another crop such as legumes. Space bush type plants 3 feet apart and vining plants 6 to 8 feet apart. Keep the plants well-watered.
Bake or boil spaghetti squash and fluff the fibers with a fork or spoon, and use it as you would traditional pasta. Serve it with marinara sauce or alfredo sauce, or use it as a side dish served with butter, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. This healthful food is low in calories, with 50 calories per 100 gram portion. The flesh is high in fiber and low in sodium; it's a good source of folic acid, and has a fair amount of potassium and a small amount of vitamin A. Yellow-fleshed fruits have higher amounts of the vitamin. Store the mature squash in a cool, dry place for up to three months.
- Purdue University: Production, Fruit Quality, and Nutritional Value in Spaghetti Squash
- Organic Gardening: Winter Squash 101
- North Carolina State University Horticultural Science: Cucurbit Breeding: Vegetable Cultivar Descriptions for North America: Squash, Lists 1-26 Combined
- Abundant Gardening; Donald J. Pottner
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