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Sometimes squash grows way past expectations

Beahler plants cushaw squash, but wonders what really grew

October 9, 2011
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Little gets your mind whirling like a squash that's big as a kid.

That's what Janice Beahler looks at every time she steps into her yard. Her yard is a garden, and in her garden there stands a cushaw squash 3 foot tall and growing.

"I planted a golden cushaw," she said. "I don't know what's growing."

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Sandy Mickelson
Thought to be a cushaw squash, this monster measured more than 37 inches in circumference and more than 36 inches in height at the end of September. Fort Dodge gardener Janie Beahler said the seed for this came in a package of golden cushaw, but she thinks it must have been a fluke.

Cushaws are a large-squash variety, but the large is consider 10 to 12 pounds. They are bulb shaped with a slightly sweet, yellow flesh tends to be fibrous. They're good for baking and for making pies.

Beahler hasn't decided what's to become of her squash. She know it weighs way over 10 to 12 pounds, because she can barely pull it away from the base of her raised garden bed. And while the squash itself is immense, so is the vine.

She planted her heirloom seed in the center bed of three raised beds, each 4-feet-by-8-feet, sitting side by side. Once the squash started growing, it overgrew almost everything else in the three beds, running back and forth on the ground, then climbing onto the fence and running back and forth along the fence. The leaves could hide a small dog.

"The catalogs do not support what I see growing out there," Beahler said. "The reason I think it's a cushaw is because of the order blank."

The order blank shows she bought an heirloom cushaw squash.

"I'm not sure that was the seeds I planted," she said. "I ordered golden, and this has no gold, so I don't know if it's ripe yet."

It might not be ripe, but it is big. It's more than 37 inches in circumference on the bottom and stands more than 36 inches tall. "I've never grown a big squash like this before," she said.

But it's not likely to be the last super squash in her garden.

Beahler saves seeds. That cuts down on what she spends for seeds - her whole yard is turned in vegetable gardens in the summer, and almost every seed is heirloom. It's wholly organic. And she says she would have a screaming fit if someone put any poisons in her yard.

"I've got tomato seeds in my freezer right now," she said. "They'll keep for years. When I was growing up, my parents had a a100-by-150-foot garden and then we had a smaller kitchen garden. Your stuff that's going to be faster you put in the kitchen garden so you can run out and pick it faster. Mother used to can a minimum of 200 quarts of tomatoes."

Although Beahler cans some stuff, she much prefers her dehydrator and she dehydrates everything she can get her hands on - tomatoes, squash, carrots, peppers, corn. A 3-pound bag of onions dehydrated will fill a quart jar. She said a small bag of dried corn is an excellent food source for hikers. It's even sweet.

Apples, strawberries, raspberries and peaches also roll through her dehydrator.

"It's not processed. There's no chemicals, no preservatives. You've just got good food."

I've always studied wild medicinal and edible plants," Beahler said. "My kids say they remember when I used to feed them weeds."

Right now, all she's got on her mind is figuring out this giant squash growing in her yard.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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