Squash: the canary in the crop field?
Tuesday, 10th November 2020 by Anonymous
squash in field

Squash usually lasts us through the winter into early spring. They store well so they’re a wonderful source of complex carbs, with flavoursome orange flesh to brighten up meals through the long winter. But to our surprise all our farmers have nearly run out of squash already. So cherish that Delicata in your veg bag: it may be the last one you see this year.  

I asked Danny from the Better Food Shed why it has been such a terrible year for squash growers across the country. 

“Poor yields have been universal across all the growers we work with,” Danny explains. “It was a combination of the extremely wet spring followed by the very dry summer, followed by the very wet autumn. 

“Basically, the two points in the year where you need to get onto the field – spring to sow and autumn to harvest – you need it to be dry.” 

Squash, when grown at field scale, are left in the field to cure. Once ripe, the plants die off and the fruit remains on the ground to cure before harvesting. Few farmers have the indoor facilities to lay out acres-worth of squash, so they rely on relatively dry weather so their squash can cure in the field. 

Danny adds: “Ripple for instance, only got half of the squash they had expected. One bunch of sowings were wiped out because of the drought and another lot rotted in the field because it was too wet.”  

This is ultimately down to unpredictable rainfall, which is a consequence of climate change, and will be increasingly an issue for food security in the years to come.  

Farms likes the ones we work with, that grow a diverse range of crops, rather than growing a monocultural crop, are better able to cope with these uncertainties. Every shock we experience in the farming world makes us ever more grateful for the alternative food system we have created - investing in and supporting regenerative farming, which can reverse the effects of climate change, is more important than ever before. So treasure the squash you have and keep championing organic farming and urban agriculture.