While at a recent conference, I was handed a set of cards recently released by Pride of New York promoting certain vegetables. The front of the cards all had a photo of a fruit or vegetable with a saying such as 'Nosh on Squash.' The back of each card contained information about that fruit or vegetable.
The one vegetable that caught my eye was indeed the squash. And, the interesting fact that caught my eye was not the slogan, but the fact the card claimed you can eat squash leaves.
Never doubting Pride of New York would place false information on their cards, I all the same researched this notion. And, sure enough, tender squash leaves and tendrils. I found many ideas for stir-frying the leaves and tendrils. Next summer, I will have to try this idea.
The idea of using the squash leaves excites me - one because I like to try new foods, but also because I like to be resourceful and use garden space wisely. Winter squash is a warm-season vegetable, which means it requires warm soils and warm days to thrive. The first frost withers the leaves and vines of this tender plant.
If you have never grown winter squash, you may find this odd since we eat the squash during the fall and winter. Unlike summer squash that we harvest young and eat before it is fully ripened, winter squash we harvest and eat when it is fully developed and ripe. We must grow the plant all summer long before we can harvest the bounty.
In addition to having a long growing season, winter squash requires quite a bit of room. The plant is a vine that rambles quite a distance. Even the bush varieties still require quite a bit of garden space. So, in the end, you have a plant that takes a lot of growing time and space.
But, every year I still plant winter squash. It is highly nutritious, stores easily, and tastes great. Now knowing I can get an additional harvest out of this already great vegetable makes me excited for the next growing season!
Anne Lenox Barlow is the horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. CCE offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450; Essex County, 962-4810; and Franklin County, 483-7403. E-mail your questions to askMG@cornell.edu.