By Gail Thomas

Spaghetti squash

Pumpkins are a favourite for the home gardener and the cook – nothing like a bowl of warming pumpkin soup or roasted as an accompaniment to chicken or other meat. For something a bit different why not consider planting spaghetti marrow/squash or gem squash as these varieties have ‘strands’ of textured flesh similar to fine spaghetti, hence the name.

Gem squash fruit and flower

Gem squash fruit and flower

They are easy to grow, planted in spring/summer in a full sun position, and around 14-16 weeks later are ready for harvest. These winter squash, which will store well for up to 3 months are best picked when the skin has taken on a golden hue – gem squash are often sold in the marketplace while the skins are dark green but by allowing to ripen to a deep orange they also have a longer keeping shelf life.

While squash can be boiled, steaming or baking is a better option to retain the texture and flavour. Spaghetti squash is oblong so can be halved lengthways with seeds removed while gem squash, which are round softball size are good halved for individual serves. When they are left to ripen to a dark gold colour the skin becomes harder and holds shape well– you could even scoop out the flesh, then refill the shell for serving with your finished combo and top with grated cheese.
(A word of warning, don’t put a whole squash in the microwave – it might explode and blow the door off!)

Squash is rather delicate in taste but can make an excellent vehicle to carry other flavours. Before cooking, fill the cavity with a knob of butter, a sprig of thyme leaves, (or a sprinkling of Middle Eastern spice mix) a crushed clove of garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Add curry past to gem squash

Add curry past to gem squash (photo by Gail Thomas)

Alternatively scrape out cooked flesh and top with a sauce – pesto is good – as you would for pasta. For another interesting presentation add a teaspoon of rendang paste mixed with a little water coconut milk to the cavity, No Worries Curries rendang paste is a good Australian-made product, and bake in the oven. You can also toss cubes of any pumpkin in the paste before baking this hearty dish.