Excellent growing conditions are helping to meet booming demand for the increasing volumes of squash being grown by English producers.
Peter Barfoot, who grows squash on the Isle of Wight and in Hampshire, said he was expecting his sales to increase 30% this year as a result of its increased popularity.
He added: “Our crops are looking good and we have so far had rain at exactly the right time to make them swell.”
The surge in popularity is led by Butternut, a golden smooth-skinned US variety shaped like a light bulb.
Butternut is widely accepted to be an excellent variety of squash and, said Barfoot, is driving much of the growth in the sector.
Butternut needs 90 days of Mediterranean-style sunshine, which it just about gets in the UK. Harvesting will take place shortly. As well as growing Butternut, Barfoot said he also imported it to maintain year-round continuity.
Later in the year, Barfoot will grow Kabocha. Most squashes can trace their origin to the US, but the Kabocha is a delicacy from Japan, whose popularity has transferred to Australia and New Zealand.
This is another challenging variety, which demands similar levels of sunshine to Butternut, but which is also popular with consumers.
Other varieties are less demanding, particularly softer-skinned summer types which need less heat and ripen earlier. These include Gem, Acorn and Spaghetti varieties, which Barfoot also grows.
David Shapley