I’m dreaming of luscious soups, sauces, and savory side-dishes today. Why? Because my butternut squash is begging to be harvested! Here’s how to pick, cure, and store this powerhouse of fiber and beta carotene:
How to Harvest, Cure and Store Butternut Squash
Wanna see butternut squash growing with gusto on a cattle panel trellis? Watch the (mercifully-short!) video above.
The time to pick winter squash (i.e., butternut, acorn, Hubbard, and pumpkin) is when stems have shriveled, vines are beginning to die back, and shells have hardened. If you can’t scratch a shell easily with your fingernail, it is hard enough. Cut cleanly from the vine with hand-pruners, keeping one to two inches of stem intact.
Next, permit the squash to “cure” — that is, to heal its cuts and scratches — in warm, moist air. Ideal curing conditions are 75-85 degrees F., and 80-percent humidity. These conditions are not easily achieved during a typical Northeastern autumn. Thus I compromise slightly, and place the squash in full sun on my wire-mesh patio table for 10 days.
After curing, move the squash to cool storage. There’s no compromising here: temperatures between 50-55 degrees F., and 50-70 percent humidity are the rule. I usually stash the squash in the barely-heated North Wing (previously the “Kitchen Wing”) of this creepy old house. A slightly-heated garage or proper root cellar would work as well. Then again, you could simply cook and freeze the squash!
In any event, winter squash should never be stored on a cold, damp basement floor. Nor should it be stacked. Stand the harvest on a table in one layer, or arrange it, single-file, on shelves. Stacking leads to injured produce, and this invites rot. And like the proverbial apple, one rotten squash can spoil the whole bunch.
Shelf life for winter squash that has been properly cured and stored:
Acorn – 2 months, perhaps a little longer
Butternut – 5-6 months
Pumpkin – 3 months
Hubbard – up to 6 months
Spaghetti – 2-3 months
Yes, I’m dreaming of snowy evenings, roaring fires, and comforting bowls of butternut squash soup. How ’bout you?
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