Growing Kabochas - When to pick them?

I grow kabocha squash, the so-called Japanese pumpkins. The plants look for all the world to me just like pumpkins, zuchini and probably several other squash type plants, and I can only tell what I'm growing for sure when the "fruits" start growing. In fact, I have a couple of plants right now that have me scratching my head and don't know what they are, really.
Kabochas are rather like acorn squash, is my feeling. The meat is redder than pumpkin, somewhat denser, and definitely sweeter. I can use them in anything requiring pumpkin and also use them like acorn squash. They are very tasty plain, or with butter. They seem to thrive in conditions that work for pumpkins but tolerate somewhat cooler temperatures.
I plant many seeds and I don't thin at all. Given the choice between quantity and size, I go for quantity. I'd rather have more plants growing smaller fruit then less plants growing large fruits.
Each plant seems content to grow one "pumpkin" and then won't set further fruit, or if it does, the extra fruit are practically nothing, never getting bigger than a tennis ball. I figure I can grow more if I harvest the first setting fruits before the season nears an end and let another fruit set for each plant. That might double my crop, I figure.
Well, here's my question: these kabochas keep very well and in fact I still have one or two from last season in the house. If I pick them way before the season is over, say even before they turn completely grey like they eventually do, will they keep as well as if I let them "cure completely" on the vine? At what point can I "safely" remove them from the vines?
Dan
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I forgot to mention something concerning my problems getting early male kabocha flowers. I developed a theory last summer that my kabochas were refusing to turn out male flowers early (I believe I posted the problem in this newsgroup a few years ago and people said it was not a problem one would expect) because I had been in the habit of always planting seeds from my own crops. I figured the plants were maybe (this is almost hypothetical) trying in their own way to hold out for pollen from a stand of squash other than my own in an attempt to escape the inbreeding they had been subjected to for a few years.
Indulging this theory, I bought one decent sized kabocha from my local market this last winter and dried the seeds from it and mixed them with the others I planted early this March in hopes that at least the plants from the store-bought kabocha would send out male flowers early. It didn't seem to work.
Dan
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snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net said:

I think those damned squash vine borers are only found east of the Rockies. The other annoying pests of squash (here) are striped cucumber beetles, which can chew young squash plants to nubs. These can carry a wilt disease (the reason I don't grow cukes or melons anymore).

Most of the 'classic' Jack o'lantern and pie pumpkins are C. pepo, as are acorn, sweet dumplings, and delicata squash (plus zuchinnis other summer squash). But there are a few C. maxima types that are orange and grown as pumpkins (and all of the giant monster pumpkins are C. maxima). The ghostly white pumpkins are C. maxima, too.

Clean those seeds off a bit and you could either roast and eat them yourself or feed them to the local wildlife. The local squirrels and cardinals are crazy for squash seeds.
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

After enlightenment, the laundry.
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On Thu, 10 Jul 2008 06:18:46 -0400, Pat Kiewicz
: snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net said: : :>I don't recall ever having problems with pests in my squash/pumpkin :>growing adventures. : :I think those damned squash vine borers are only found east of the Rockies. :The other annoying pests of squash (here) are striped cucumber beetles, :which can chew young squash plants to nubs. These can carry a wilt :disease (the reason I don't grow cukes or melons anymore).
AFAIK, striped cucumber beetles (which I have certainly heard of, but probably from readings) aren't a problem here. Truly, I'm lucky in that after the plants are a couple of inches high they never seem to be bothered by anything other than the fungus that always attacks about when the plants stop growing aggressively. : :>I used to grow pumpkins exclusively. I actually got :>into kabocha cultivation completely by accident. One year a kabocha came :>up in my pumpkin patch, perhaps more than one. This was a few years ago. :>I hadn't a clue what I was growing and when I spotted what looked like :>the same squash at my local very well produce stocked market, I asked :>what it was and was told "kabocha." I've grown them exclusively ever :>since, preferring them very much to pumpkins, which is (I think) what :>you are referring to when you speak of C. Maximus, right? : :Most of the 'classic' Jack o'lantern and pie pumpkins are C. pepo, as are :acorn, sweet dumplings, and delicata squash (plus zuchinnis other summer :squash). But there are a few C. maxima types that are orange and grown as :pumpkins (and all of the giant monster pumpkins are C. maxima). The :ghostly white pumpkins are C. maxima, too.
I'm going to have to delve into the botany here, and I'm actually fantacizing about taking a course in botany, something I've never done! I imagine I'd very much like it and find it amazing. Maybe merely the right book(s) would suffice. Or maybe some judicious online surfing/reading. : :>Even so, I :>often find a pumpkin or two in my patch, and there is one beautiful :>specimen in my garden at present, about the size of a volley ball.:> :>In order to control what comes up next year, assuming I purchase seeds :>online, I'm obviously going to have to stop tossing the seeds and pulp :>from my squash into my compost. I get volunteers in my tomatoes, basil :>and celery (which I pull). No doubt, I currently also get volunteers :>among my squash, but can't determine which plants are volunteers.: :Clean those seeds off a bit and you could either roast and eat them yourself :or feed them to the local wildlife. The local squirrels and cardinals are :crazy for squash seeds.
I've done a lot of that and in fact have quite a lot of cleaned seeds from years past when I used to grow pumpkins intentionally. I even have a surplus of kabocha seeds, which are somewhat larger and quite a bit thicker than pumpkin seeds as a rule. I haven't tried roasting and eating kabocha seeds. Cardinals, I think, are absent here, but squirrels abound here. I'm not sure I should encourage them, but there's probably nothing to be done about them in any case. I think they got a not insignificant amount of my tomatoes last year. However, my tomato crop is always abundant, so it's no problem. I hadn't thought of feeding the local fauna. How selfish of me!
I buy pumpkin seeds regularly and put about 1/3 cup in each loaf of whole wheat bread I bake. I've roasted pumpkin seeds that I've grown and eaten them. Of course, eating them with the hulls on is a bit weird unless I take the trouble to hull them, although still delicious. I think a parrot would do better with them.
I overestimated the size of my sole pumpkin. It's far from volleyball size. It may not even be half that size. It's very pretty, however. To me, that's the only think it has over a kabocha.
This year, like last year, I'm going to weigh each squash I pick and enter it in my database. Last year I picked 54 kabochas weighing a total of some 56 lb.
Dan
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On Wed, 09 Jul 2008 06:20:15 -0400, Pat Kiewicz
:Sacramento is flirting with record highs nearing 110 today, according :to the Weather Channel. I hear it's a dry heat, though...we've been pretty :steam-bathish here. The sweat pours off but has nowhere to evaporate to. : :We've had so much rain that I don't think I've had to water anything other :than pots and initial transplants for the last month. That's really unusual.
I watched the news' take on the weather last night but they didn't announce Sacto. I figured somewhere in the high 100s. Indeed communities only 20-25 miles from me were hitting 110 and above in some cases. It only reached 83 here, according to my outdoor digital thermometer, which features a memory! I was rather surprised.
I think the weekend will see some significant improvement in inland weather in Northern California. It will still be hot there, of course. That's the norm. Dry, yes. Humid seriously hot weather is pretty much a rarity in MY experience in CA.
When it's hot like this I water my squash in the morning as soon as the sun is prevalent enough to evaporate the water on the leaves. I don't want the leaves to have any more wetness than necessary for any longer than necessary due to the fungus problems I always have on the squash leaves toward the end of the season. I've been treating the leaves with a solution of baking soda (sprayed on with a hand sprayer) when I start noticing fungus on the leaves, and that seems to control the fungus pretty well. I also have sulphur, but figure baking soda's probably healthier to be applying to the plants.
Seems like we've had little more than enough cumulative rain here since February to even get your clothes wet! My tomatoes tolerate occasional watering far better than the squash. Even when the root zone is very wet, the squash leaves droop some in full sunshine for many of the plants. This may not threaten the health of the plants but obviously they are going to grow better if the leaves don't droop and absorb accordingly more sunshine. The plants seem to do better when growing in a bog, as long as the fungus is kept at bay.
Dan
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On Sat, 05 Jul 2008 06:52:35 -0400, Pat Kiewicz
:No, if you pick them early enough to leave time for more fruit, you will :only get two inferior squash instead of one fantastic squash per plant, :and maybe not get that second squash at all. (The days grow short :quite rapidly at the end of the season.) : :For best keeping, the squash should be grown on the vine until it has :a tough rind and very hard stem. Generally, this isn't until the squash :has reached its proper varietal appearance. (One exception being some :varieties of ornamental pumpkins which are bred to color up early.) :Many winter squash will take on a silvery/powdery 'bloom' when they :are mature. : :For best flavor, squash should be left on the vine as long as possible, :and removed only when the vines have begun to die back and/or frosts :threaten.
I cooked my very last kabocha last night. It was about the size of a small grapefruit. By appearance it hadn't matured completely. It was still quite brown, rather than the grey typical of a fruit that has remained on the plant "indefinitely." However, it felt completely tight and ROCK-HARD all over, completely devoid of blemishes! My experience from last year was that 1/2 the fruits were cooked because they had begun to show some kind of degradation as though if they weren't consumed soon, they would rot in short order. This one particular squash I partly ate last night (it's in a vege stir fry I am keeping refrigerated for occasional use) was a beautiful orange complexion meat-wise, unusually so. It seems inferior in no way except perhaps the flavor. Indeed, if it were allowed to completely mature on the vine, it might taste a lot better.
My yardstick last year for picking was my judgment that the squash were no longer getting nutrients and water through their stems. IOW, if I saw no juice in the cut stem after removing the fruit, I decided that perhaps the fruit had reached a state in which it would be no detriment to remove it and thereby I could let the plant set another fruit.
Dan
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snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net said:

I have to keep an eye on my stored squash for that. But since I like to used my squash mostly for things like soup or in waffles, I usually process them into a puree and freeze them.
The longest a squash I had grew has kept (before rotting) was 1-1/2 years! It was a large C. moshata (not a necked variety, a flat round type that my daughter nick-named "butt pumpkin" because it looked like a circle of derrieres). I let it go out of curiosity. It didn't dry out, it rotted in the end.

Even once harvested, squash should still be left in a warm, sunny place to "cure" for a week or so. Something not generally available at my place in late October.
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

After enlightenment, the laundry.
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On Thu, 10 Jul 2008 06:20:41 -0400, Pat Kiewicz
: snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net said: :> :> :>On Sat, 05 Jul 2008 06:52:35 -0400, Pat Kiewicz
:>:No, if you pick them early enough to leave time for more fruit, you will :>:only get two inferior squash instead of one fantastic squash per plant, :>:and maybe not get that second squash at all. (The days grow short :>:quite rapidly at the end of the season.):>: :>:For best keeping, the squash should be grown on the vine until it has :>:a tough rind and very hard stem. Generally, this isn't until the squash :>:has reached its proper varietal appearance. (One exception being some :>:varieties of ornamental pumpkins which are bred to color up early.) :>:Many winter squash will take on a silvery/powdery 'bloom' when they :>:are mature.:>: :>:For best flavor, squash should be left on the vine as long as possible, :>:and removed only when the vines have begun to die back and/or frosts :>:threaten. :> :>I cooked my very last kabocha last night. It was about the size of a :>small grapefruit. By appearance it hadn't matured completely. It was :>still quite brown, rather than the grey typical of a fruit that has :>remained on the plant "indefinitely." However, it felt completely tight :>and ROCK-HARD all over, completely devoid of blemishes! My experience :>from last year was that 1/2 the fruits were cooked because they had :>begun to show some kind of degradation as though if they weren't :>consumed soon, they would rot in short order. : :I have to keep an eye on my stored squash for that. But since I like :to used my squash mostly for things like soup or in waffles, I usually :process them into a puree and freeze them.
I have a wonderful pumpkin soup recipe I've made many many times: - - - - Moroccan Pumpkin Soup:
2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 cup dried, washed and soaked overnight and then cooked 1 1/4 hours, or canned) 3 Tbls olive or vegetable oil 2 leeks (white and light green part only) or 2 large onions, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups) 8 cups of broth (or bullion) 2 1/2 lbs pumpkin, about 4 cups (after mashing), baked, parboiled or canned. (Bake or parboil until soft, pumpkin or other winter squash. Seed, halve and bake cut side down or peel, seed, chop and parboil, until soft) 2-4 Tbls sugar or honey 2 tsp ground cinnamon, or 1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick 1/8 tsp ground allspice (or nutmeg, or a pinch of ground cloves) about 2 tsp salt ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over med-low heat. Add the leeks or onions and saute until soft and translucent, 5 to 10 min.
Combine the broth, pumpkin, chickpeas, sugar, spices, salt and pepper and heat until boiling point. Reduce heat to low, and simmer. If using the cinnamon stick, simmer for 15 minutes and discard stick. Check for seasonings. Combine with cooked leeks or onions.
Serves 8. - - - -
I think I may have put pumpkin in waffles a time or two, puree, of course. I do have a fair amount of frozen pumpkin and kabocha puree (cooked, of course) in the freezer. The recipies I usually use it in are the above soup recipe and this amazing recipe:
- - - - Pumpkin Cake
1 29 oz. can pumpkin (or use fresh) 12 oz. evaporated milk (one can). For this, you can substitute 11 oz. water and 1 cup non-fat milk powder. 4 eggs 1 cup sugar (brown is OK too) 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon allspice ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1 package Duncan Hines Cake mix, yellow (other brand should work OK) 1 cup melted butter 1 cup chopped nuts (I always use pecans, but walnuts might work well) ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- I generally make a 1/2 recipe.
Mix first 7 ingredients well. Pour into 9 x 13 pan (greased with towel and margarine). Sprinkle dry cake mix on top of mixture, sprinkle nuts over cake, sprinkle butter over cake. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until cake tester comes out clean. - - - -
: :The longest a squash I had grew has kept (before rotting) was 1-1/2 :years! It was a large C. moshata (not a necked variety, a flat round :type that my daughter nick-named "butt pumpkin" because it looked :like a circle of derrieres). I let it go out of curiosity. It didn't dry out, :it rotted in the end.
The one I cooked last night may well have been at 11 months, possibly longer, and looked and felt for all the world like it was just picked. It wouldn't surprise me if it would have lasted another 6 months to a year. I ate it because I was out of squash otherwise. :> :> My yardstick last year for picking was my judgment that the squash were :>no longer getting nutrients and water through their stems. IOW, if I saw :>no juice in the cut stem after removing the fruit, I decided that :>perhaps the fruit had reached a state in which it would be no detriment :>to remove it and thereby I could let the plant set another fruit.:> : :Even once harvested, squash should still be left in a warm, sunny :place to "cure" for a week or so. Something not generally available :at my place in late October.
Here, it's common to have warm weather in October. It's generally not until November that cold days start being pretty ordinary.
BTW, it looks like you will have perhaps better weather over the weekend in Sacto than normal. 90 degrees, is what they said yesterday for inland locations.
Dan
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