Delicata squash seeds have been around since the 1890s, but it’s prominence is only now increasing since Cornell developed a variety that most squash diseases don’t affect. This type of winter squash is known for its delicate rind and edible skin. So how exactly is it grown?
What is Delicata Squash?
Delicata squash is part of the same family as zucchini: cucurbita pepo. It’s often thought to be a winter squash since it’s harvested later in the season, but its soft skin says otherwise. The Modern Farmer regards it as a “cross between fresh corn and pumpkin pie” flavor-wise. Even though it’s a more successful squash now, it had a shorter shelf life when it was first introduced in 1894. It made it a less reliable crop for farmers and couldn’t compete with other squashes, almost phasing out completely.
Also known as the bohemian squash, peanut squash, and sweet potato squash, the Delicata is cylindrical in shape and has a primarily cream-colored skin with vertical green or orange stripes. These fruits (yes, fruits) are indigenous to North and Central America, having been introduced to European settlers by Native Americans.
How about alternative to Delicata? Check out this thorough list of 54 types of suqash to find one.
How to Grow Delicata Squash
Delicata squash isn’t as difficult to grow as you might think. It can be grown primarily in the summer and takes around 80 to 100 days to be fully grown. Here are the whats, whens, and wheres of raising this summer squash.
Where Do You Grow Delicata Squash?
Grown in the summer and harvested at the end of the season/beginning of fall, Delicata should only be planted after you’re sure all frosts have passed and the temperature has been routinely above 70 degrees for five consecutive days.
Sow the Seeds
Seeds should be planted one-inch deep into mounds of soil, one to six seeds per mound, in a place where there’s full sun day-round. Make sure your mounds are flat on top and have a three-inch layer of compost so the seeds have nutrients! Plant your seeds evenly spaced apart, giving them room to grow. If you don’t immediately have an outdoor area set up for your Delicata, you can also sow the seeds indoors and later move them to the mounds (if you’re experienced in transplanting seeds). Delicata squash grows to be about one to two pounds each.
For the first watering: soak the mounds. Since they’re in full sun exposure, you’ll want to make sure they stay nice and moist until your seedlings emerge. Once they grow to a durable size, keep at most three plants per mound and take out the rest. Water as needed until ready for harvest--deep watering once a week should work just fine. You’ll know when it’s ready because the skin will turn its delicate cream color.
A Concise Step-by-Step Guide for Growing Delicata Squash
Follow these steps for an end-of-summer harvest of your Delicata squash:
1. Choose a Location
Choose a spot in your garden with plenty of space for the mound and room for vines to grow. You’ll want the plants to grow in full sun so that the soil stays warm, so a spot further away from any tree, shed, or house shade is ideal.
2. Give them Space
Make a mound of soil with a flat top that’s about one square foot of space. Make sure the mounds are at least three inches tall. If you’re growing the Cornell Bush Delicata, ensure that each mound has four square feet of space around it for the plant to thrive. If growing vining Delicata squash, you’ll need 20 square feet of space.
3. Add Compost
Till in a three-inch layer of compost so the seeds have nutrients and fertilization. This extra boost should encourage growth and will give your plants more of a chance of survival.
4. Plant Your Seeds
After the spring frosts are over, when the temperature has been consistently 70 degrees or warmer for five days, the conditions are ready to plant your seeds. You can start them indoors, if you’d like, and transplant them into the mounds once they start to sprout if you’re unsure of the weather.
When planting the seeds directly into the mounds, they should be three-quarters of an inch to one inch deep in the soil--no more, no less. You can plant up to six seeds per mound, making sure they’re evenly spaced out (though, if you plant more, you have more of a chance of having plants survive).
5. Water Thoroughly
Soak the mounds. This gives the seeds ample water to grow.
Once the seedlings sprout, water as needed. One deep water a week should do the trick, but you can water sparingly once the top one-inch of soil is dry if you need it.
6. Watch Them Grow
Delicata squash take anywhere from 80 to 100 days to be ready for harvest. So, sit back, relax, and keep them nice and happy as they grow big and strong.
7. Harvest When Ready
Delicata typically grows up to one to two pounds. When the squash’s skin has turned a nice cream color and it’s developed is green and orange stripes, the fruit may be ready for harvest. To be sure, test the skin with your fingernail. If it doesn’t dent, and if the stem is completely dry, it’s ready to be plucked.
To harvest, cut with disinfected pruning sheers so that at least one inch of the stem is left attached to the squash. The harvesting season for Delicata can start late summer and last up until the end of October.
8. Store in a Cool Place
Store your Delicata in a dark, dry, cool place (somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees) until you’re ready to use it.
What Can You Do With Delicata Squash?
Delicata squash has a variety of uses. If you can’t use it right away, you can freeze it. Simply cook it until it’s soft, put the flesh in freezer bags, and viola. The amount of time you have to use the squash has increased.
Since it has an edible skin, it’s an ideal squash for stuffing (with wild rice and kale, for example). Typically with these, you’ll halve the squash, remove the seeds, and maybe carve out a little of the flesh. Love & Lemons has a recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash with Apples & Sage where you’ll halve the squash lengthwise, take out the seeds, and cut them into half-inch pieces. What’s Cooking Good Looking even tells us how to make twice-baked Delicata (a baked potato replacement, perhaps?). The best part, though, is that the skin never needs to be removed. Every part is edible and delicious.
You can also use it for decorating. The variety of shapes and colors can be used to create a visually interesting centerpiece for your table or they could be used as part of an autumn porch display.
Delicata Squash Photo Gallery
Delicata, Delicata, Delicata!
You can see that there are variations in the cream-color (sometimes it’s a bit more yellow) and in the thickness of the stripes. But this Delicatas are ripe and ready for consumption!
Various Shapes and Sizes
Even the shape can vary. Some are plumper on one end, while some have a pretty even thickness throughout.
Here you can see the Delicata flower and squash that’s just starting to grow!
Yellow and Orange
This variation of Delicata, while more yellow than cream and with orange stripes instead of green, is still Delicata.
Pale Green with Stripes
These Delicata from Fiddleheads Food Co-Op give us a nice close-up of the skin. Sometimes Delicata have green spots, too, that aren’t fully formed stripes.
A Variety of Color
A wonderful mix of all sizes, shapes, and colors Delicata has to offer!
Off the Vine
Delicata squash off the vine vs. on the vine. (Remember to leave at least one inch of the stem when harvesting!)
This Delicata squash is still attached to the vine and not yet ready for harvest, though we can see how plump it’s getting. The green stripes are starting to form, too!
Great for Stuffing
Some prepped Delicata for you. You can see how the seeds form on the inside and the shape that the flesh has--a visual explanation of why Delicata are so good for stuffing.
Where to Buy Delicata Squash Online
If you can’t find any Delicata seeds in stores, don’t fret! There’s always the option to order them online. Many places package and send seeds reliably and in a timely manner. You could even get a kit if you aren’t sure how to get started!
GardenTrends on Amazon sells a 50 count seed package of Honeyboat Delicata squash.
Isla’s Garden Seeds sells 25+ premium seeds for you to grow, guaranteeing a high quality, non-GMO product.
Seedz sells a certified organic option of Delicata seeds that have come from open-pollinated plants.
Seedville sells a 25 count packaged of a sweet dumpling Delicata variety that more closely resembles a pumpkin, if you’re interested in having a more unique plant.
King Seeds sells a 15-pack of Cornell Bush Delicata seeds for you to grow. Growing instructions are included with each purchase, and the packet is even resealable!
Looking for more sources? Here's our list of top 50 online stores for squash and pumpkin seeds.
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