The Tasteful Garden: How to grow and cook what you love to eat

Tasteful Garden: A squash you can eat like spaghetti

CorrespondentsMay 17, 2013 

Spring is the time to think about planting spaghetti squash.

SUSAN TUSA — MCT

Carol Stein grows it

Spring is the time to think about planting spaghetti squash. Part of the winter squash family that includes butternut and acorn squash, spaghetti squash takes 60 to 70 days to reach maturity after the seeds germinate.

For an early fall harvest, sow spaghetti squash seeds directly into the garden or large containers between now and the end of May. Plant more seeds during the first two weeks of August for a November crop.

Hybrid varieties of spaghetti squash make excellent container plants. Small Wonder and Vermicelli, both offered by Jung Seeds & Plants ( jungseed.com), have a semi-bush growth habit and take up much less space than heirloom spaghetti squash varieties. Any vines that occur may be allowed to trail on the soil in gardens or cascade from containers.

Small Wonder is very productive and can be grown in small garden spaces or containers. It has a rich orange hue both inside and out, and is only about 6 inches long at maturity. Vermicelli has the same shape and color as heirloom spaghetti squash, but weighs only 3 pounds fully grown.

Johnny’s Seeds ( johnnyseeds.com) carries Pinnacle (F1). A “personal size” spaghetti squash, weighing less than 3 pounds when mature, it has a lemony hue.

Grow spaghetti squash in rich garden soils with organic compost or composted leaves mixed in. The pH level should be between 6.5 and 7.5 for best results.

Grow the squash in full sun. For growing in containers, use ones that are between 24 and 36 inches wide or larger, and at least 18 inches deep. Sow seeds an inch deep and 18 to 24 inches apart. Sow two to three seeds in smaller containers and thin all but the single healthiest plant after germination.

Keep the soil evenly moist until the seeds sprout, then provide an inch of water each week. While the squash are developing, they may require more frequent irrigation depending on weather conditions.

Debbie Moose cooks it

About 25 years ago, I found a football-like yellow object on my doorstep. After determining that a gardening neighbor left it, I asked him what it was. He said it was a spaghetti squash.

I’d never seen one before. The next question: What to do with it?

Looking at the rather large squash, I had no idea that, when cooked, the solid flesh would turn to strands that I could comb out from the skin like Rapunzel’s hair.

While the texture is crunchier and the flavor sweeter, spaghetti squash can be used like pasta for those who are watching carbs or gluten. But it must be cooked first. I prefer to cut the squash in half lengthwise and bake it. Remove the seeds first, then bake cut-side down on a greased baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the skin with a fork. Then simply scoop the strands out of the skin with a spoon.

Don’t cut the squash until you are ready to cook it. It keeps best if stored whole at room temperature; it will last up to three weeks. Be sure to select spaghetti squash with no bruised or dark spots.

I adapted this recipe from one in the original “Moosewood Cookbook” by Mollie Katzen. The strands hold their crunchiness even when baked in a casserole, which gives a nice bit of texture with the Italian flavors.

Reach Carol Stein and Debbie Moose at tastefulgarden@hotmail.com.

For a printable copy of the recipe, click the link:

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Spaghetti Squash Casserole 1 spaghetti squash (1 8-inch size or 2 smaller ones) 1/4 cup olive oil 1 cup chopped onion 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced 1 teaspoon oregano 1/2 teaspoon thyme 1 teaspoon basil 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or to taste 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes 1 cup cottage or ricotta cheese 3/4 cup fine bread crumbs 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

HEAT the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Place the halves cut side down on the cookie sheet. Bake until a fork easily pierces the skin, about 30 minutes. Let the squash cool until you can handle it, then scoop out the inside of the squash into a large bowl. It will come out in crunchy strings. Discard the skin.

HEAT the oven again to 375 degrees. Place the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes and their juice and simmer until about half of the liquid evaporates.

STIR the onion mixture into the spaghetti squash. Stir in the cottage or ricotta cheese and the bread crumbs. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray, then pour in the mixture. Top with the Parmesan. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling and the top is lightly brown. YIELD: 6 servings

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