Carnival squash is a winter squash, harvested when the seeds have matured inside and the skin is no longer soft. It grows throughout the summer, and unlike summer squash, it is easy to store when harvested. It earned the name "carnival squash" because of the festive appearance of the vegetable.
Carnival squash is a variety of acorn squash. The hard skin of the mature vegetable may be green, orange, yellow or multicolored. It is fairly round and resembles a small pumpkin. It reaches up to 7 inches in diameter and weighs up to 3 lbs. Propagated from seed planted after the last frost, the semi-bush plant reaches maturity in 81 to 90 days and reaches up to 2 feet in height.
Plant carnival squash in soil ranging from neutral to acidic, after the threat of frost is past. The plants should be watered regularly, but be careful not to over-water. Keep the plants free from weeds by using shallow cultivation. Pollination of the plants requires the help of bees, so if a pesticide is used, it should be applied in early evening, after bees have left the garden. When harvesting, choose squash that has a tough skin for better flavor, and be sure to leave at least 2 inches of stem on the squash to reduce the risk of decay.
Carnival squash is used for decoration and culinary purposes. The hard skin makes it difficult to peel, so halve and remove the seeds, then choose the cooking method. It can be roasted in the oven, braised or baked with other foods. Add cooked squash to salads and wraps or fold into crepes. It can also be used to stuff pasta or chicken or as an addition to soups and baked goods, such as squash bread. Cooked squash can be frozen for up to one year.
Carnival squashes with deep orange colors have more beta carotene than ones with lighter colors. The sodium-free, fat-free veggies are a source of fiber and complex carbohydrates. A 1-cup serving of squash contains iron, potassium, niacin, protein, vitamin C and folic acid and delivers all this in just over 30 calories.
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