Sunday 23 October 2016

The original courgetti - no spiraliser required

This is a spaghetti squash. In a just world, the spaghetti squash should be having its 15 minutes of fame about now, as it is the original light, gluten-free alternative to pasta that needs no expensive spiralising equipment, just a 30-minute bake in the oven.

Instead, its brash skinny cousin, the courgette, steamed in and stole all the limelight, with its fancy gadgets and flashy green outer skin. Of course, courgettes are also readily available in the supermarket, and they fruit in huge numbers every summer, leaving gardeners wondering how to deal with them all. The spiraliser and its transformation into 'courgetti', long strands that can stand in for pasta without giving you a heavy carb or gluten overload, have turned courgettes into a must-have vegetable, leaving the much more naturally gifted spaghetti squash stranded in its wake.

A hefty 2kg spaghetti squash (such as the large yellow squash, lower right, above) can be baked in the oven, exactly as is, for 30 minutes, or until a knife slides easily into the flesh. Remove from the oven and slice in half lengthways, then spoon out the seeds. Now rake a fork over the cut surface of the squash. You'll find the flesh separates and falls quite naturally into spaghetti-like strands. Hence the name. One squash serves two easily, three at a push.

They have a mild nutty taste, not as 'green' as a courgette, and shouldn't be in any way watery. They go well with the conventional pasta sauces although I'm also quite happy to stir in some butter or olive oil, season with a little salt and lots of pepper, then dust with parmesan.

Grow spaghetti squash up a trellis, to save space and also to help keep the
ripening fruits undamaged from sitting on damp ground and away from slugs.

Spaghetti squash are one of the easier squash to grow. They germinate readily, sown indoors, two to a pot, sometime in April and then being transplanted outdoors in May or June, once it has a set of true leaves and looks like it's getting too big for its 9cm pot. Squash like rich moist soil, so it's worth digging manure into the squash bed before you transplant and then feeding the plants well once established. I like to train squash up a plastic mesh trellis or fence so that the fruit hang down but don't touch the ground: otherwise they will sprawl everywhere and take over your garden/allotment, and will be more vulnerable to slugs and snails. Apart from that, I confess, I leave them well alone.

I don't really know why spaghetti squash never make it into the shops. They're easy to grow, relatively prolific, good storers ... now that so many supermarkets find space for Crown Prince, onion squash and some of the more ornamental gourds, you'd think they could find a corner for the self-spiralising spaghetti squash.

If the squash does develop at ground level, slip a tile underneath so that it doesn't sit in the dirt.

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