Gem squash central – how to find them, how to grow them, how to eat them!

by Jeanne on October 12, 2010

in Sundays in South Africa, Vegetable side dishes

Post image for Gem squash central – how to find them, how to grow them, how to eat them!


No doubt my non-South African readers are scratching their head and asking what the hell is a gem squash and why do we need a whole post dedicated to them. Well, let me tell you – it is probably the thing that South Africans abroad crave the most, and one of the more frustratingly unobtainable. In fact, when my half-sister emigrated to France in the 1970′s she missed gem squash so much that she smuggled a packet of seeds into France wth her and planted them in her garden there, just so that she could have a steady supply.  Biltong is made in most countries where Saffers congregate; to get boerewors, all you need is a good spice blend and a tame butcher to make it for you; and rooibos tea has practically conquered the world.  But gem squashes seem to be the holy grail for expat South Africans, judging by the deluge of comments that have followed my two previous posts on them.

So what is this mythical vegetable of which I speak?  Gem squash (similar – or possibly identical – to rolet squash, 8-ball squash or courgettes ronde) originated in Central America and belongs to the botanical genus Cucurbita, which includes melons (!) and can be subdivided into Cucurbita maxima (Hubbard squash and buttercup squash); Cucurbita mixta (cushaw squash); Cucurbita moschata (butternut squash); and Cucurbita pepo to which gem squashes belong, together with most pumpkins, acorn squash, marrows and cucumbers. More generally, though, squashes are categorised as summer or winter squash, which has little to do with their time of availability, but rather their time of harvesting and degree of maturity at harvesting. WInter squashes are generally left until the end of summer before they are harvested, making their skin tough and making it possible to store them for consumption at a later date. Summer squashes, on the other hand, are picked when they are still young and tender. They need little or no cooking (e.g. zucchini) but don’t keep as well as winter squashes. Included in this family would also be the wonderful pattypan squash (also called scallop squash) which was a staple food back home but not something I’ve seen generally available in UK supermarkets :-(

Gem squash falls into the summer squash category, but I must say that the gem squashes vary greatly in terms of how thick their skin is - a function of how early or late they were picked. The ones we get in we get in South Africa (often sold by the roadside in 5 or 10kg bags, and sooooo cheap!) tend generally to be pretty thick-skinned and once cooked, hold their shape to form their own little biodegradable bowl. In the UK, however, they live up to their summer squash description and the skin is often soft enough to eat once cooked. In South Africa we also get baby gems – approximately the size of ping-pong balls and cooked in the blink of an eye. You just eat the whole thing, no mess, no fuss – and they are SO sweet and delicious.

So if the supermarkets don’t sell them, the only way forward is to grow your own.  Judging by the number of queries I have received, lots of expats want to know how to grow gem squash, so here is a little guide, collated from various websites and reader comments.

GROWING GEM SQUASH

  • Choose your location wisely as gem squash need a lot of space to grow. They send out long vines and will take over your vegetable patch if you allow them to.  Some growers construct A-frame trelisses for the vines to trail on which keeps the plants off the rest of your garden, and the fruit off the ground (where they might rot).
  • They are not frost tolerant and require temperatures of between 18C to 27C for optimum growth. The frost free growing season in the northern hemisphere is roughly between April and November.
  • Sow your gem squash in the sunniest spot in your garden (particularly in colder countries), in rich, well-drained soil. Add some compost to the soil before sowing for best results and sow the seeds in rows, 2cm deep and 1m apart. Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged as this will cause the seeds to rot. Mulching is not necessary as the large leaves of the squash plant provide similar protection from moisture loss.
  • A handy hint from reader UK Stephen Brosin is to “dig the planting hole far too big, place a handful or two of 3-4 day-old grass clippings in the hole, add some compost and some slow-release fertilizer and then plant your seedlings on top. If you have a compost heap, grow your Gems on the heap!”
  • Gem squashes have similar growing requirements to cucumbers and prefer organic liquid feeds high in potassium.

HARVESTING GEM SQUASH

Harvest takes place in early Autumn.  If you are planning to keep the squashes for a while, the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked when the skin is too hard to pierce with your fingernails.  However, it is unlikely that you will get to this stage in the cool Northern Hemisphere (see below for the problem of powdery mildew), so probably better pick to pick them as soon as they approach the size of tennis balls (or even earlier), regardless of how soft the skin is. If growing Rolet F1 squash, UK reader Stephen Brosin says: “Rolet F1 , if left just a bit too long, gives a very fibrous squash not at all like a pukka Gem. When picked young, however, the Rolet F1 makes a very passable substitute and is most enjoyable”.

GEM SQUASH PESTS

The one problem that WILL arise wnhen growing gem squash (or butternuts, courgettes and cucumbers) in cool climates is powdery mildew, a fungus which strikes later in the growing season.  The growing season simply is not long enough and the onset of the cooler weather stresses the plants which makes them vulnerable to mildew for which there is no cure. To try and fight the onset of powdery mildew, readers have sent the following tips:

  • Grow the plants in full sun.
  • Take care not to wet the leaves when watering – rather make sure you water the soil directly, not the plant.
  • If possible, construct a temporary greenhouse over the plants with wooden battens and clear polythene sheeting, to keep watre and cold winds off the plants.
  • Some gardeners have experienced success by spraying affected leaves with a mixture of 1 part skim or low-fat milk to 9 parts water (a 10% solution of milk, in other words). Others say that 1 tsp. (approx. 5 mL) of baking powder (sodium bicarbonate) dissolved in 1 quart (just under a liter) and sprayed on the leaves will knock it back.  Although these may slow the powdery miildew, they will not kill it, but at least the plant may survive long enough to mature your crop.
  • Cut off badly affected leaves to encourage air flow and light to all parts of the plant.

GEM SQUASH SEEDS

If you are lucky enough to have grown a mature crop of gem squash, then you can harvest seeds from the fruit before cooking and grow more next year.  Reader keith Meintjies has this advice: “To harvest the seeds: Leave the squash on the vine until the vines die back, or buy mature squash that are not all green but have a touch of yellow/orange colour on their skin. Halve the squash, and scoop out the seeds before cooking. Rinse the seeds to remove them from the squash strands. Dry the seeds at room temperature for a week or so, then store them in a resealable plastic bag or old plastic 35mm film cannister.”

GEM SQUASH NUTRITIONAL VALUE

The gem squash is low in calories and contains useful amounts of vitamin A and C, as well as iron, folate, potassium and niacin.

WHERE TO BUY GEM SQUASH & GEM SQUASH SEEDS

Depending on where you live, it may be possible to buy gem squash fruit, seedlings or seeds.  Here is a list of the places I have found and that readers have told me about to buy gem squash, Rolet squash, courgettes ronde, 8-ball squash or Tondo Chiaro di Nizza - if you know of others, please e-mail me or leave a comment and I will add them.

In the UK:

W Robinson & Sons (as Little Gem squash seeds)

Chiltern Seeds   (as Tondo Chiaro di Nizza seeds)

Moles Seeds (as Rolet squash seeds)

Nicky’s Nursery  (as Rolet squash seeds)

More Veg  (as Rolet squash seeds)

Vegetable Plants Direct  (as Rolet squash plants)

The fruit themselves are available from Waitrose, Borough Market in London (and probably other farmers’ markets), and sometimes the large branches of Tesco & Sainsbury’s.  They also crop up fairly often in the Abel & Cole and Riverford organic boxes.

Reader April Jenneson has also very kindly said that you can e-mail her on apriljenneson@googlemail.com and ask her to send you some seeds.

In Australia:

http://www.thesouthafricanshop.com.au (as fruit, when in season)
Shop 7 & 8 Upper Level Templestowe Village
Shopping Centre,
112 James Street
Templestowe
VIC 3106

Satooz website (as gem squash seeds)

Springbok Foods (as gem squash fruit, Nov to Apr)

Diggers Club (as gem squash seeds)

In NZ:

www.kingsseeds.co.nz (will deliver to the UK)

The Farm Store Kerikeri
8 Hall Rd Kerikeri
New Zealand
ph 09 4077607
Gem Squash seedlings. $2.50 pot of three

In the USA:

Eureka farms http://www.gemsquashseed.com/

Reader Charlotte Blanch has also very kindly said that you can e-mail her on charblanch@hotmail.com and ask her to send you some seeds.

Reader Keith Meintjies has sent seeds as far afield as Alaska and countries in Southern Africa and has this to say: “I have been providing free gem squash seeds in the USA for a number of years, and will continue to do so.  If you want some seeds, send an e-mail with your name and mailing address to kmeintjes@gmail.com

If you are outside the USA, send me a self-addressed envelope with sufficient US postage affixed. The seeds may, or may not, arrive. For example, I have sent seeds to Canada, but mail outside the USA may fall victim to customs.

I actually do not care if you live in the USA or not. Just get me an envelope with sufficient USA postage stamps to reach you. Maybe the Customs will catch it, maybe not.”

GEM SQUASH RECIPES

OK, I hear you ask, that’s all fine and well, but what do you do with a gem squash?

  • You can peel and quarter the gems, scoop out the seeds and roast with olive oil. But personally, if I can avoid peeling a squash then I will!
  • You can do what my dad still does to this day: slice the squash in half around its equator, boil (or steam or microwave) until the flesh is soft enough to scoop out the seeds easily.  Then add a knob of butter in each hollow, mash the flesh inside the skin and season with cinnamon sugar.
  • Alternatively, if the idea of sweet vegetables is off-putting to you, try the same idea but with sea salt, black pepper and thyme. I have even mashed mine up with a balsamic dressing which worked well.  For something creamier, try my Rozenhof creamy gem squash recipe.
  • Prepare and steam the squashes as above, then fill each hollow with a spoonful of vegetables of your choice mixed with pesto and serve (also ideal as a vegetarian meal).
  • Or you can make gem squash stuffed with a beef mince and tomato ragu – my favourite way of serving them.

This post is (a rather belated!) part of a series called Sundays in South Africa.  The series started as a way of providing visitors with some ideas of what and where to eat during and after the FIFA World Cup 2010 which took place in June/July 2010 in my home country of South Africa!  Although the tournament is over now, I will still try to post a review of somewhere South African, or a South African recipe, every Sunday as culinary inspiration for visitors.  Click here for previous posts in the series.

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Leave a Comment

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

dining tables October 13, 2010 at 2:14 am

Thanks for sharing a whole lot of things about the squash. This is very helpful to someone like me who loves squash.

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Gillian October 13, 2010 at 2:40 am

As one of those who hankers after that taste I have repeatedly tried to grow them, but up here in the australian tropics they take off and then just wilt from the heat, whatever the season. Thanks for showcasing this wonderful vegetable.

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Maggie November 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Gillian,
Are you from Cape Town by any chance??

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Firefly October 13, 2010 at 7:37 am

I was just saying to my wife last night that it would be nice to have a veggie garden at home. The only problem is that I’m a bit lazy to weed and we can’t water garden with a hose at the moment.

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caroline Johnson August 14, 2014 at 1:44 am

Hi everyone,
Can you add another shop that sells gem squash regularly every summer in Australia please. it is the Hahndorf Vegetable shop, as you approach Hahndorf from Adelaide, South Australia on the left about a kilometre out of the village. I have just bought some now, in August which is his last until the next season. They grow them in Murray Bridge. It is also easy to grow them in southern Australia and has got my into growing my veggies in a huge vegetable garden which supplies us all year with salad and lots of fruiting veggies in the right season.

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Marisa October 13, 2010 at 9:04 am

Wow, didn’t even realise gem squash was virtually unknown outside of South Africa! The little things we take for granted, eh?

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Jamie October 13, 2010 at 9:06 am

I love the way you right! You even make squash sound entrancing and fun! I never liked squash growing up but am now discovering it little by little and you make it sound so delicious and so necessary!

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Rosemary October 13, 2010 at 11:00 am

I am never without these in my kitchen, they are pantry staples! I couldn’t live without them. One more reason to stay in SA!

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Mac Walker May 28, 2014 at 8:23 pm

I live in Seapoint Cape Town , have you any idea where I can find them ?

Thank You

Mac

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woollythinker October 13, 2010 at 11:15 am

People crave this? Srsly? *shudder* I can’t tell you how glad I am to have left them behind…

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gaby866 October 13, 2010 at 11:24 am

hmm rather like the idea of growing it over a trellis thanks Jeanne.. this season’s vegie garden is just starting to come alive !

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bellini valli October 13, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Of course I learned something new today since I have not heard of this special treat until now.

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Marie October 14, 2010 at 1:46 am

You speak as though boerewors was a given! Nee nee nee nee nee, bokkie :-)- ons sukkel nog! Taming a New York butcher is risky business. But I hope to have good news, soon.
Must say I have not had gem squash for…a long time. When I ate them, growing up in SA, the poor things were boiled to death. But they are delicious when treated with respect and good butter. And the gardener in me is happy to see a How To for growing the sweet little squash…

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Sally - My Custard Pie October 14, 2010 at 5:11 am

I love how you cover a whole topic indepth. Who knew this much about gem squash. Fab.

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Melanie Heavenly October 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm

My favourite way to eat gem squash is to cut them in half, boil them, scoop out the pips, fill the hollow with hot creamed sweetcorn and then grate mature cheddar over the top. YUM

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linda October 14, 2010 at 4:13 pm

cut in half, seeds scooped out, add butter and a bit of onion, wrap in tin foil on the braai…mmmmm!

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arcadia October 15, 2010 at 8:26 am

Sjoe, nooit besef dis so skaars in ander lande nie! Hier raak ons soms skoon moeg vir hul :-)

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norma October 15, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I guess I will never have these as I live in my tiny apartment and cannot grow them. Woe is me!

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Tint October 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm

*cries* I tried growing them here, but the constant rain at the time killed them. In no time, they fell to the ever-present ellendige mould. Now if I had read this post first, I may have had the savvy to put a cover over to protect them from too much rain. Live and learn, though I’ve used up all the seeds in that attempt. Hm… I must find me someone willing to mail to Brazil ;)
Boerewors here is a no-no unless I make it myself. The butchers wail and beat their chests if I so much as mention mincing something like pork or bacon.

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abby October 17, 2010 at 7:54 am

i had my first gem squash of the year last week – boiled, seeds scooped out, a bit of butter added and some garlic puree. absolutely wonderful.

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Pille @ Nami-Nami October 17, 2010 at 3:56 pm

What a gem :) I need to order some seeds online for next year – so all your information is much appreciated, Jeanne!

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Tamaryin October 18, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for the advice on growing them. Gemsquash are unfortunately no easier to get hold of here in Germany. You will occasionally find some at an autumn fair, but I’d never seen them in the shops until last weekend, when I was delighted to find a few in a box full of assorted decorative gourds(of the knobbly, colourful, inedible kind), which were on offer. I picked them out and took them to the till, where I was warned that they are inedible and strictly for decorative puposes! Interesting, given that they are not only delicious, but not all that decorative! I stupidly told the cashier that I knew this particular kind and they were good too eat, and she became very distressed, worried that I would be poisoned. I had to assure her that I wasn’t really intending to eat them and just wanted them to decorate my flat(!?), before she calmed down. Crazy germans.

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Heidi Kennedy October 19, 2010 at 8:06 am

I need help,planted some gem squash seeds from SA,plant’s were strong with lots of flower’s but never got fruit,what happend?I now live in SW of France,same thing happend with my butternut.yet baby marrows go mad.

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Alan Smith September 1, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Hello Heidi, Male plants will not fruit ,try and plant a number of seeds in a propagation tray,
place the small tray in a white pail with lid in full sun April+ do not over water,plant a raised bed when 8-10” high use bamboo stakes to trelliss the vines Pick the gems at tennis ball size and store, hang in orange net bags in shed will keep for 3-6 months.Good luck Alan

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Christina October 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I rather like the cinnamon sugar idea! I shall keep my eye out for these. Actually, if I plant some next year, maybe it will keep the garden weeds down…

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Kit October 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I loved them on our first visit to SA. Now we’re living here I rather take them for granted and don’t do as much with them as I could. I’ll have to try some of your ideas for serving them soon.

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biltong October 26, 2010 at 7:37 am

You are so right about missing these little babies , I have not had these for so many years now. It was one of the few veggies that i loved as child I remember always having two halves on my plate and a little butter in each – hmmmm bliss . Thanks for the heads up on where to get them .

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Fran May 26, 2011 at 7:49 pm

I have bought a huge pocket full and am worried that they will deteriorate before my family eats them. How well will they respond to freezing? After cooking maybe?

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Solly Menashe June 5, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Thanks for sharing your info on the gems. I am in Scottsdale, Arizona, missed having them so I have grown some here, but the moment the temperature goes over 100F (38C)they dont stand a chance. Fortumately the winters are mild so that is when I start planting.

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Rob June 10, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Okay I thought I was wierd, missing Gem Squash! have tried to grow them in Holland, but no luck. This year inside in front of the sunniest window, WOW, growing like crazy, full of flowers. BUT I do understand the birds and the bees bit, but seeing as I don’t have bees inside… the polination is not happening. I also can’t tel the male from the female flowers, they all seem to have a bulge below the flowers and when I open them there is a single (stamen – or whatever it is), does this mean that the female flowers are still on the way? the flowers are starting to drop off. ANYONE in the know please help, I NEED my gem squash on the table!!!!

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Gem quash fan June 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hello from another Gem squash fan….My sister sent me some seeds a few months ago and they are growing like crazy in the garden……..IN…….SWEDEN!! Imagine that!
I have been growing them for years here without any problems.

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Mark Zemack February 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Hej/Hi
Saw your comments on “cooksister” re GEM SQUASH that you’ve been growing in Sweden. Where in Sweden? I’m in the Stockholm skärgård area. When do you plant the seed? Direct outside or first in pots inside? Is the season in Sweden long enough for the gems to mature?
I lived in Zambia for many many years and really miss gems.

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P A Smuts September 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Hello from Pieter and June in Cross Gates , West Yorkshire. We’ve always loved
gems especially the young ones when we eat them skin and all.We have miss them terribly since coming to live in England. The few times that we’ve found them for sale in the shops we bought the entire remaining stock !Now we’ve decided to grow them in a decent little green house at the back of our house.We got our seeds from Robinsons.Wish us Luck!

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Patsy June 27, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Hi P A Smuts, the lovely Gem needs constant sunlight. A green house? I have my doubts. I grew them in Derby out in my allotment and they grew long and healthy, mayne 8 feet in length. After the fruit was about the size of a golfball, the leaves started becoming dry, but no wories. I continued to water the main plant and the gems grew to about a tennis ball size. Must have had about 60 in all. I stored them in my shed through the late autumn and into early winter. They were great. I was born in Florida, Old Tvl. S.A.

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JoAnn Arnold November 3, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Sure hope you will e-mail me,I would love to have seeds from your squash

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Peter Kent November 16, 2011 at 6:49 am

Hi, I have five plants growing nice but loose the fruit at marble size only three will mature. Do you have to take off the male flowers like you would do with cucumbers?? Peter

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Jean November 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm

My husband composted our front garden with our own compost and low and behold, there are loads of gems and butternuts now growing. Picked the first 4 today and they are presently cooking and will accompany the ‘braai’ today. Lucky us.

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Peter Kent December 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Hi again, Sorry I had no help from all you nice people but thought someone would give me some help. regards, Peter Kent (16/11/2011)

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Gem quash fan December 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Peter Kent, no you don’t remove the any of the flowers, the problem is probably the location of the plants, ie too windy, too sunny, too cold, too dry, too wet…etc…try planting in a different spote and wind free. Mine grow in the southeast corner of the garden in deep potplants, free from wind, they are watered about once a day during the hottest period. I sow them indoors first and plant them out when temperatures are around 18 degrees night and day. I normally get about 5 kg of gemsquash from 6 plants (in sweden!!) hope this helps. Good luck

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Adrian Callard January 5, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Hi All,
Had no Joy for seeds from “Eureka Farms”
Have asked Keith and Charlotte to help.
Adrian

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Riana January 6, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I am harvesting gem squash on a daily basis lucky me! Would love a gem squash soup recipe!!
Thanks, Riana

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Apriljenneson January 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm
marisa January 23, 2012 at 11:09 am

Peter Kent – sounds like the bees are not pollinating the flowers. I had the same problem growing gemsquash this year until I remembered that I need to do the job myself – now i have loads of mature squash on my vine. I check the plant daily to see if new female flowers (with the fruit forming below them) are open, and if they are, I either break off a male flower and use it to pollinate, or use a paintbrush to transfer the pollen from male to female. It’s amazingly effective, and without this method I find that the squash shrivel and fall off as you describe. I have no idea why this is never mentioned on the seed packets! Hope this helps someone…

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Jan January 7, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Thanks for all the info. I am one of those gem-starved SAffers wanting to produce my own in Brisbane.
My plants are growing very well and I keep them well fertilized. I do have a problem though in that the fruit get ‘weened’ off when about marble size. I have tried bicarbonate of soda and also use fertilizer containing 10% potassium but this does not solve the problem. I can certainly accommodate some use full advice here.
Many thanks in anticipation.

Jan

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Tershia-Marie Janse van Rensburg January 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

Thank you for all the information – but I want to know if it is possible to freeze gem squash

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Keith Meintjes January 29, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I have been getting one or two requests for seeds per week for the past six years or so. Send an e-mail with your snail mail address to kmeintjes@gmail.com. (USA only.)
Interesting question, freezing gem squash. I imagine it would be fine: Cook the squash, scoop out the flesh, add butter, salt and spices to taste, and freeze in a ziploc plastic bag.
By the way, Gem Squash are winter squash. They can be eaten when immature, skin, seeds and all. But, if you let them mature, they develop their distictive taste, and the shell can become quite hard. The skin is normally a very dark green, but may develop orange areas as it matures.
There have been references to 8-ball squash. These are round zucchini (Italian squash, courgettes). They are summer squash, and are not gem squash.
Keith

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Tershia-Marie Janse van Rensburg January 30, 2012 at 6:04 am

Hi there Thank you the answer I shall try it out Have a nice day

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Lynn Woods February 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

Please can anybody tell me where I can buy GEM SQUASH??? I live in East Anglia..

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Viola March 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

When is the best time to plant the seeds? I live in New Zealand North Island…

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bob robertson July 24, 2012 at 11:20 am

this is my third season growing gem squash, but this year for some reason a lot of my early females are turning light green and eventually dying—i do have some good healthy gems but am baffled by this
rob

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joe bloggs August 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I’m growing gems in the greenhose, and have trained them up canes and across the roof.
the problem is that after the flower has dropped off the fruit begins to rot from the flower end and drops off.
any Ideas why?

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Kirill October 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Hi Joe, are you growing by hydroponics?

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Jane January 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I have squash growing in my vegetable garden but I cannot identify the type. Please can you help?

thanks

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Jeanne January 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Hi Jane – do you have a picture of the squash that you can e-mail me?

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Don McLaren February 8, 2013 at 4:34 am

I brought a packet of Mayford Rolet Gem Squash seeds back from SA on our last trip. I started by germinating some seeds in a small bowl sandwiched between paper towel and kept moist. After about a week or soon later I had some healthy seedlings. I then transferred them to a seedling tray with potting mix for another 2 weeks. When they had grown to a height of 75mm I transplanted them in well manured and composted soil under 70% shade cloth. I planted them out about a 6 weeks ago and the plants are becoming well developed. The only concern is the pollination of the flowers when they appear as I have heard that I may have to self pollinate. Any comments?

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Dean April 30, 2013 at 11:55 am

Hello – thanks for the interesting info on gems!
I am in Perth, Western Australia and have been able to get gems quite cheaply of late so am able to satisfy my SAfrican pallate in that regard.

I have been trying repeatedly to be grow these tasty veggies for the past 4 months and they flourish UNTIL the evil powdery milldew engulfs them and that is the end of the line. I have even tried growing them in my outdoor hydroponic system and have tried to treat them with the milk solution you mentioned but still the powdery milldew is relentless and the milk solution has no effect.

It must be possible to grow them here – based on the plentiful supply of them in the veggie stores.. so for now, the quest continues to overcome the scourge of the powdey stuff. I would be interested to hear from anyone who lives near the coast in Perth who has found a way to beat the problem.

dan in perth

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Aylwin Halligan-Jolly October 9, 2013 at 5:41 am

Hell Dean,
I have grown a few plants from shop bought gem squashes and so far have numerous little squashes developing. Now I am worried about the mildew and wondered if something like a Bordeaux spray may help. Mildew of a sort affects my Gooseberry plants (like kills them ) and my grapevine,
regards Aylwin, Doubleview, Perth

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Helen August 25, 2013 at 8:05 am

Mine definitely self pollinated maybe we have more bees here

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Carol Leep May 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm

My daughter lives in Zimbabwe. When visiting her I really liked gems. We are planting some today. We can’t wait for them to grow and then we can enjoy them.

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Kirill May 14, 2013 at 8:19 am

Hello from Russia
Once I was been in SA and tried a tasty Gem Squash…wow…it’s wonderful!
I’m waiting seeds from England now.
Please answer me: is anybody growing Gem Squash by hydroponics method? Which size of length root gem squash?

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Suzy Q June 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I lived in the UK for many years and used to buy my precious gems at Waitrose. I would literally buy the entire stock if i found them, which was often, in winter.

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Henri August 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I have been in the USA now for 15 years and miss my gem squash the most. Found some seeds 2 years ago and have been growing my own since then. A little bit of heaven!! so far away from home.

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helen August 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Hi growing some gem squash in my UK garden (in the north) and they are growing and cropping well on trellis……

I got the seeds from Amazon.co.uk They are much larger than a tennis ball i would say twice as big, should I harvest them as they grow to this size or leave them ? Also should I gradually pick them? as most plants have 5 fruits so far but with many more flowers ready to grow more, does harvesting help the the little ones grow better ?

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kerry August 22, 2013 at 8:18 pm

For the first times thanks to this forum I have managed to grow a handful of gems (I go out every morning and do the bees job for them and pollinate the female flowers) can anybody tell me if you are meant to pick them and leave them to dry a bit before cooking them as my first one was quite watery and not a very strong flavour?

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Don McLaren August 25, 2013 at 4:59 am

You may have picked your gems too soon. What is your location? Did you plant from seeds purchased? When did you start planting the seeds and how long did it take to get your gems ready for picking.

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Helen August 25, 2013 at 8:06 am

Hi growing some gem squash in my UK garden (in the north) and they are growing and cropping well on trellis……
I got the seeds from Amazon.co.uk They are much larger than a tennis ball i would say twice as big, should I harvest them as they grow to this size or leave them ? Also should I gradually pick them? as most plants have 5 fruits so far but with many more flowers ready to grow more, does harvesting help the the little ones grow better ?

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Don McLaren August 25, 2013 at 8:56 am

I tried the same technique and got some good seedlings and once planted out in the garden, I got some good growth with lots of male flowers and very few female ones. Before I could pollinate the few females, the leaves started to go mildew and the plants started to die. Does anyone know what causes the mildew rot?

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Una August 30, 2013 at 6:32 am

Just love them & am so happy I have found them I am going to try & grow them wish me luck

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thea September 2, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Where can I buy or order gem squash seeds in Australia? Thank you very much.

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Barrie December 26, 2013 at 4:46 am

I bought a gem squash and took out the seeds and dried them for few weeks. Planted them and now have beautiful plants with lots of fruit in my garden. Help them to pollinate. In Perth WA on the coast

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Greta Jansen September 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm

A few expats have smuggled gem seeds in and I’ve just got a friend to grow some gems in her garden as I have only a small deck. My gems came up but shrivelled at 2″ which was very sad. Hers did well and I’ve had quite a few. The climate here is quite similar to Cape Town. Would love to get recipes, news, etc.

Is it true that Mugabe has banned everything white in the country, e.g. cars, fridges, shirts? They all have to be repainted. God help the white cats and goats! People here just don’t believe me when I tell them these stories.

Greta happily on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

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Kirill September 22, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Hello dear
Does anyone know the company in South Africa that export gem squash to Russia?

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Don October 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

Hi Alwyn,

I did the same as you, had a good start on the growth of the vines, lots of flowers, but almost all male flowers and very few female so was not able to pollinate them by hand. Then the mildew started and killed off the plants. So have started again and just finished planting out my seedlings growth from seeds collected from Gems bought from an IGA supermarket inMyaree, Perth WA. I believe that a spay will be needed to control the mildew. I am going to talk to the dept of Agriculture this week on the subject.

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Fleur October 27, 2013 at 6:44 am

I’m about to try growing some squash in Thailand. If anyone has any advice or has tried this before I would love to hear from you. I’ll try to remember to tell you all how it went.

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Maggie November 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I was brought up on these lovely Gem Squash. My Grandma used to grow them.
When we moved to the UK she must have brought some seed over with her, as I remember having these when I went to visit or stay with her.
Would love to get some or some seeds.

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Mark Zemack January 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Try pollinating some of the flowers by hand and then cap those flowers with a paper cone. Use a couple of male flowers and make sure they are full of mature pollen.
Are you over fertilizing? The plants need lots of water on the ground – don’t spray the leaves or the flowers. Google how to ….. and read.

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Ida January 31, 2014 at 11:39 am

Hi there,
Inplanted some seeds. How long before i will see something growing?

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Ed July 26, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Hi, just to let you know that there IS a cure for powdery mildew. Every year my squashes and courgettes got the mildew, so this year I googled it and found that gardeners and farmers in the USA use a fungicide containing myclobutanil for it. In the UK it is only approved for ornamental plants and fruit trees but I figured if it’s good enough for American gardeners I should give it a go.

It’s sold as Systhane and stopped the first signs of mildew dead in its tracks. American sites recommended leaving at least three days between spraying and picking.

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Zimbo August 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm

To stop mildew you need to create an alkali on the leaves. Use tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda, with a gallon of water – add tablespoon of cooking oil and tablespoon of liquid soap, mix together, and spray both sides of leaves and stems before midmorning on a sunny day. Use a frame and pots and keep separated by a couple of meters to prevent spread of mildew.

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Caryl August 18, 2014 at 6:27 pm

How are gem squash pollinated? I am growing them on my balcony and there are NO insects up here (except flies…) so I feel that I will have to pollinate by hand. The only problem is that although there definitely me flowers, I have not seen any female flowers, so I have no idea how pollination happens.

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Ann August 18, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Hi,at last I have grown gem squash in the West Midlands ,England,yes seeds from SA,but will save seeds,started the seeds on the cold greenhouse,then pricked out when had 2 true leaves,planted outside in June.,not much protection,ambled along,now fruits,have just picked 2good size ones ( slightly bigger than a tennis ball. And skins hard).but on reading need to leave 6weeks from picking to allow starches inside to go sweet.picked 2years ago gem squash I grew,then cooked,bitter as hell,’,,we have had s good summer,more squash to come,

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Alan Smith September 1, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Hello All,
I have grown Gem squash here in Cornwall UK for the past 3 years on Bamboo trellises ,this year being rather wet and cool I am experiencing a lot of leaf mildew and strip off the leaves but it is difficult to stop it ,will try milk and also baking soda .I have used seeds from So.Africa , Namibia,Zimbabwe and Lydl Stores.Thank you for the recipes. Happy growing.Alan

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caroline September 2, 2014 at 4:45 am

Squash plants do not have male and female plants. They all give rise to both male and female flowers and you can use the male bits to fertilise the female ones by rubbing some pollen from male into the female. If there are no female flowers you might like to add some potassium into the soil. ASk a nursery.

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Tony Wheal September 17, 2014 at 4:38 pm

We’ve been growing gem squash at home in East Anglia since the 1970′s. We started with a packet of seeds bought in CT and haven’t looked back. We plant them in small pots in a propagator, pot them on until they are big enough (and it is warm enough) to plant out and then into the vegetable patch. We used to grow three plants but found ourselves supplying all our friends, the local market stalls and charity shops. We now plant one out and this must produce at least 40 squashes. They do of course vary in quality from soft to hard and stringy later in the season depending on the weather but we have never had a failure. They get watered overhead like the rest of the vegetable garden by a sprinkler and mildew hasn’t proved to be a problem. The seeds keep for donkeys years in the foil seed packet and we use our own as well. You have to be careful not to buy F1 hybrids or you can’t use your own seed.

We also grow Cape Gooseberries in large cold frames or the greenhouse (the plants need replacing after about 3 years) and various varieties of granadilla.

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