Early Summer Crookneck Squash Seeds - (Cucurbita pepo)
- Seed Count:
- Approx 25 seeds per pack
- Days to Maturity:
- 42-60 Days
- Heirloom, Non-Hybrid, Non-GMO seeds
Early Summer Crookneck Squash - Favorite Summer Squash
To those who know and grow these delectable swan-necked fruits, they are easily a favorite summer squash. The skin of the crookneck is slightly warted, but inside you’ll find smooth creamy-white flesh that is mild, sweet, and flavorful.
Grown in fertile soil, gardeners are often poetic describing them - a perfect buttery sweetness, sweet and nutty, with a wonderfully meaty texture, and bursting with flavor.
There’s a reason this is probably the most popular, and beloved, summer squash grown in gardens across the country. A common comment is the store-bought crookneck might give you a glimpse of the true flavor potential, but it’s the homegrown product that really stands out in the kitchen and on the plate.
Early Summer Crookneck is a bush-type summer squash, growing about 2’ tall and 3-4’ wide, making it easy to slip into a late-spring or mid-summer garden spot, as it won’t take over the garden like vining squash, and you can harvest the fruit easily. It’s a great container plant, ideally suited for larger 10 or 20-gallon containers.
Prior to the arrival of the zucchini from Italy, crookneck squash was the dominant summer squash, often harvested as a baby yellow crookneck when 3-4” long, or mature at 5-6” long.
Crookneck is a North American institution, with domestication happening long before the arrival of the Pilgrims.
The word “Squash” comes from the Narragansett Native American word “askutasquash”, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” Crookneck type squash are believed to be one of the oldest varieties of summer squash and documentation of them dates back to Colonial America and before.
In 1807 Thomas Jefferson received seeds for what is believed to be the Yellow Crookneck squash from Philadelphia Quaker, Timothy Matlock. In Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, it is documented that Matlock received the seeds from the Cooper family who for nearly a hundred years had preserved the heirloom squash in New Jersey.
Virginia and New England settlers were not very impressed by the Native Americans’ squash until they had to survive the harsh winter, at this point, they adopted squash and pumpkins as staples. Squashes were baked, cut, and moistened with animal fat, maple syrup, and honey.
The ways to use fresh crookneck squash are as varied as your imagination and tastebuds can make them. Most people first consider using it fresh, grilled, or cooked in some way, but here are more suggestions.
Squash blossoms are a delicacy. Harvest male blossoms when fully open for salads or stuffing - they typically precede female blossoms by about a week. You can tell female flowers by the bulge at the blossom's base, an early sign of the fruit forming.
Yellow Crookneck squash is thin-skinned, yet sturdy making them ideal for use in both raw and cooked dishes. Grate into fritters, quick-breads, pancakes, or raw salads for a new flavor dimension. Peel thinly and slice lengthwise to use in lieu of traditional pasta noodles. Slice thin and layer into lasagna or ratatouille. Halve and stuff with vegetables, meats, or cheeses.
Cooked squash purees deliciously into soups. Its flavor partners and pairs with tomatoes, corn, shelling beans, garlic, onion, fresh herbs, eggplant, egg preparations, roasted poultry, toasted nuts, and cheese such as goat, parmesan, and ricotta.
Squash needs pollinators to transfer pollen to set fruit, so companion planting with pollinator-attracting flowers will give you better production.
Beyond the traditional bean and corn pairings of the Three Sisters approach, several other flowers and herbs make excellent beneficial companions with summer squash. Asters, borage, fennel, lemon balm, marigold, nasturtium, oregano, and sunflowers do well with crookneck squash.
Nasturtium is especially beneficial with squash as it helps repel squash bugs, and its pretty flowers have a bright peppery taste.
Vegetables that do well with crookneck squash are cucumber, melons, and radishes.
Squash likes warm, slightly moist soil and Early Summer Crookneck is no exception. Feel the soil with your bare hand first thing in the morning - if it feels warm to your hand, it is time to plant seed.
Traditional planting instructions say to plant 4-5 seeds per hill, then thin to the strongest couple of plants. You can still plant this way, or plant 2-3 seeds per hill and clip off the weakest one once they have gotten their first true leaves. Never pull the seedling out as it severely disturbs the other root systems and will stunt the growth and production for the rest of the season.
Crookneck squash is a fast-maturing variety, making it perfect for a second round of planting in mid to late summer. The very warm soil will sprout the seeds quickly, giving you fresh squash into the first couple of freezes with some overnight protection.
Planting later in the season also avoids the worst of the insects and diseases prevalent earlier on.
The richest flavors come from the best, most fertile soil. Add well-aged compost to the soil, working it in 3-4” deep. If you have the space open, cover crops planted 5-6 weeks before planting will do the work for you. Cut the crop down at 3-4 weeks of growth, letting the stems and leaves act as a green mulch, protecting and enriching the soil as it decomposes. At the 5-6 week mark, it will be ready for planting.
Crookneck likes to stay moist but not soggy. Water deeply a couple of times a week if you don’t get consistent rainfall. Avoid watering the leaves, which makes them vulnerable to disease and attractive to pests. Early morning moisture feeds the roots better and minimizes how much is lost to evaporation.
A drip system on a timer is ideal for keeping soil moisture consistent while keeping the leaves and stems dry.
Due to their bushy nature, crookneck squash can thrive in larger containers - 10-20 gallons is good for a single squash plant. Remember that containers can dry out faster, so expect to water a bit more often or a bit longer than in a traditional garden.
Crookneck fruit grows at the base of the plant, under the leaves. The stems and leaves have small spines, so wear gloves and long-sleeved shirts to avoid them. Cut the fruit from the plant with a sharp knife or garden shears, avoiding tearing the stems which can lead to disease and decreased plant health.
Frequent harvests encourage production until frosts.
Once the fruit is 5-6” long determine maturity by gently pressing the skin with your thumbnail. If it leaves an indentation, they are ready to harvest. Don’t press too hard or you’ll break the skin. The first harvest is usually ready about 45-55 days after planting.
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Planted this for the second time this year from seed. I am already seeing squash on it in less than one month. The first ones I grew this year were rather bland so I have amended my soil and am giving them a second chance. It just didn't have the flavor that I look forward to in a yellow squash.