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Squash that mind their manners.

IF RAMPANT VINES AND behemoth fruit have deterred you from growing winter squash, consider a bush or compact variety that takes little space and yields an abundance of flavorful fruit.

After perusing seed catalogs last spring, Sunset editors tested seven varieties (pictured above) advertised as compact. Spring, when frost danger ends, is the time to order and plant seeds for late-summer harvest.

All our plants were given the same growing conditions--fertile soil, full sun, and consistent water. We compared varieties for plant size, vigor, disease resistance, and productivity.

Once squash had been harvested, a panel of seven tasters compared them. Here's what we learned from one growing season in our small-scale test in Menlo Park, California.

With the exception of |Early Acorn', a vine of 3 by 6 feet, and |Sweet Mama' (described below), all varieties stayed about 3 1/2 by 3 1/2 feet.

|Sweet Mama' ranked first for flavor and total poundage of mature squash. A single plant produced nine squash, ranging from almost 2 to more than 6 pounds each; total harvest was more than 35 pounds. |Sweet Mama' was also the largest vine in our tests; it grew to 4 by 4 1/2 feet, with one vine trailing 8 feet.

Tasters described |Sweet Mama' as very sweet, rich, and nutty, with a smooth, agreeable, slightly stringy texture. Its flesh color is dark brownish orange. |Butterbush' ranked second in flavor, called nutty and "squashy." Deep reddish orange flesh and butternut-shaped fruit make it an appealing squash to halve and serve. However, |Butterbush' was physically the weakest plant in our garden.

Least liked for flavor was |Cream of the Crop'. Tasters found it bland, even bitter and off-tasting.

|Cream of the Crop', |Early Acorn', and |Gold Nugget' were very productive, each yielding about 22 pounds. |Gold Nugget' produced the most squash--19 total. |Bush Table Queen' was unremarkable.

Mildew eventually affected the |All Seasons' |Gold Nugget', and |Sweet Mama' varieties.

MAIL-ORDER SOURCES

You'll find the varieties described here among these sources. For free catalogs, write to Johnny's Selected Seeds, 310 Foss Hill Rd., Albion, Maine 04910; Park Seed Co., Cokesbury Rd., Greenwood, S.C. 29647; and W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Warminster, Pa. 18974.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Outdoor Living; Gardening; evaluation of winter varieties of squash
Author:Ocone, Lynn
Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:366
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