- How To Cut Butternut Squash
- How to Cut Butternut Squash | 1-Minute Video
- How To Soften Butternut Squash Skin:
- How To Peel Butternut Squash:
- How To Cook Butternut Squash:
- How To Store Butternut Squash:
- Butternut Squash Recipes:
- Food Storage – How long can you keep…
- Buttercup Squash
- General Information
- Health Benefits
- Storing & Cooking Information
- Curing Your Winter Squash for Storage
- The following winter squash hold well with proper curing:
- How to Cut Acorn Squash
- How to Roast Acorn Squash
- More Squash Recipes You’ll Love
- How to cure and store winter squash
- Winter Squash: Storage Tips
- Storage Conditions
- How to Pack Them
- While in Storage
- How Long They Last
- Other Tips
- A Note on Storing Food
- How to Cure Squash for Storage
How To Cut Butternut Squash
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Learn how to cut a butternut squash safely with this step-by-step tutorial (video included).
It’s butternut squash season again!
And because I care about us and our sanity and the preservation of all ten of our precious fingers, I thought we could all use a quick refresher this season on how to cut butternut squash…the safe way. ♡
Because let’s be real, as delicious as butternut squash may be, it is approximately zero fun to cut and peel. And if done the wrong way, it can put the safety of those fingers holding the squash in serious jeopardy. But if done the right way, I promise that you can peel and cut butternut squash much more easily, quickly and safely. And before you know it, you will be cooking it up in no time.
So let’s get to it! Here are my best tips for how to select, cut, peel, cook and store butternut squash!
How to Cut Butternut Squash | 1-Minute Video
When shopping for a ripe butternut squash, in general you want to look for a squash that is…
- darker in color: the darker the shade of beige, the better
- no green patches: look for a squash that is uniformly beige, free of cuts and blemishes
- matte: the skin should be more matte (versus shiny)
- heavy for its size: choose the squash that feels like it weighs the most for its size
- sounds hollow: if you give the squash a tap, it should sound hollow inside
How To Soften Butternut Squash Skin:
The skin on butternut squash is notoriously tough and difficult to peel. So if you would like to soften the skin a bit before peeling your butternut squash, just use a fork or paring knife to poke holes all over the skin of the squash. Then pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes, remove, and proceed onward with peeling the squash.
How To Peel Butternut Squash:
I highly recommend using a good-quality sharp peeler to peel butternut squash. I prefer using a Y peeler, but a swivel peeler would also work. That said, if you do not own a peeler, you can halve the squash horizontally (see photos below), place the cut side down on a flat surface, and then use a knife to vertically slice off the peel.
How To Cook Butternut Squash:
There are actually lots of great options for how to cook butternut squash, such as…
- Roasted butternut squash: I will be actually sharing my best tips and recipe tomorrow for how to roast butternut squash in the oven — stay tuned!
- Baked butternut squash: If you do not want to roast butternut squash at high heat (which tends to make the edges of the squash slightly browned and crispy), you can bake butternut squash instead, which simply means at cooking it at lower heat for a bit longer. When making baked butternut squash — either halved, or chopped into cubes — I recommend cooking it at 350°F until the squash is tender. Cooking time will depend on the size of your butternut squash pieces.
- Slow cooker butternut squash: Place the whole (uncut) squash in a large slow cooker. Slow cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours, until the squash is tender and cooked through.
- Instant pot butternut squash: Place the steamer basket in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise, then place the halves side by side in the pressure cooker, and pour in 1 cup of water. Cook on high pressure (manual mode) for 12 minutes, followed by a 10-minute natural release, followed by a quick release.
- Sautéed butternut squash: Cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the squash and sauté for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
How To Store Butternut Squash:
Fresh (whole) butternut squash should be stored in a cool, dark place in order to prevent ripening. Depending on its ripeness when purchased, fresh butternut squash should last for 1-3 months.
Uncooked (diced) butternut squash can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days. Or to freeze diced uncooked butternut squash, spread it out on a parchment-covered baking sheet in an even layer (no overlapping). Then freeze on the baking sheet for 3-4 hours, or until frozen. Remove the baking sheet, and transfer the diced squash into a freezer bag or storage container, then freeze for up to 3 months.
Cooked (diced or mashed) butternut squash can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days. Or to freeze diced cooked butternut squash, spread it out on a parchment-covered baking sheet in an even layer (no overlapping). Then freeze on the baking sheet for 3-4 hours, or until frozen. Remove the baking sheet, and transfer the diced squash into a freezer bag or storage container, then freeze for up to 3 months.
Butternut Squash Recipes:
Looking for some butternut squash recipe inspiration? Here are some of my faves!
- Butternut Squash Soup (Stovetop, Slow Cooker or Instant Pot!)
- Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale and Cranberry Couscous
- Butternut Squash, Arugula and Bacon Quiche
- Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tacos
- Chai Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash Soup
Learn how to cut butternut squash (safely!) with this step-by-step tutorial and video.
- 1 butternut squash
- Lay the butternut squash on its side on a large sturdy cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to carefully slice off the top 1/2-inch (including the stem) of the squash, and discard. Repeat by slicing off the bottom 1/2-inch of the squash, and discard.
- Use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel all of the skin off of the squash, while carefully holding the squash with your other hand. Discard the peel.
- Once the entire squash has been peeled, lay the squash on its curvy side and slice it in half down the center (see photo example above). Then slice each piece in half down the center vertically, so that you now have 4 pieces of squash.
- Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds and pulp. And now — your squash is ready to cut/dice however you’d like!
- To dice the butternut squash, place the flat sides of the squash against your cutting board, and then carefully cut it into your desired size/shape of pieces. Keep in mind that the smaller the pieces, the faster your squash will typically cook (especially if you are roasting or sautéing the squash). I typically cut mine into 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch cubes for roasting, but the size/shape of the cut is totally up to you.
- Once your butternut squash is cut, you can either cook the squash immediately. Or you can refrigerate it in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or freeze it in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
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posted on September 9, 2019 in How To’s
With creamy, nutty flesh, butternut squash lives up to its name. One of the most popular varieties of winter squash, butternut squash has a hard shell that gives it a long shelf life, and storage can even increase its sweetness. With a shape often compared to a long pear or a bowling pin, butternut squash is usually cylindrical, with a bulbous bottom. Its dark-orange flesh is delicious roasted, steamed, or sautéed, and served in chunks or pureed for a soup or pasta filling. Squash is a good source of iron, riboflavin, and vitamins A and C.
HOW TO BUY
Butternut squash is available year-round, but it is best from early fall through winter. Look for a squash that feels heavy for its size; one with a fat neck and small bulb will have the smallest seed cavity, yielding the most meat. Butternut squash should have a hard skin without bruises or mold. (A darker-colored spot indicating where the squash has been resting is fine).
HOW TO USE
Even though butternut squash is one of the tenderest winter squashes, getting to its sweet inner meat can be difficult. If you prefer not to attempt to prepare it yourself, many supermarkets now sell peeled and diced butternut squash. To prep butternut squash yourself, use a sturdy, sharp chef’s knife. First, cut off the top (with the hard stem) and then cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and stringy interior with a spoon. It is easiest to peel the squash after roasting, rather than before. For sautéing, you will need to peel the squash first, which you can do with either a sharp vegetable peeler or a paring knife. After you peel the squash, remove the top, cut it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and strings, and dice the remaining flesh.
HOW TO STORE
Do not refrigerate whole butternut squash; it will keep for a month or more in a cool, dark place. Peeled butternut squash should be stored tightly covered and refrigerated for up to five days.
Food Storage – How long can you keep…
- How long does cooked winter squash last in the fridge or freezer? The exact answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – refrigerate winter squash within two hours of cooking.
- To maximize the shelf life of cooked winter squash for safety and quality, refrigerate the winter squash in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags.
- Properly stored, cooked winter squash will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- How long can cooked winter squash be left at room temperature? Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F; cooked winter squash should be discarded if left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
- To further extend the shelf life of cooked winter squash, freeze it; freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.
- How long does cooked winter squash last in the freezer? Properly stored, it will maintain best quality for 10 to 12 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
- The freezer time shown is for best quality only – cooked winter squash that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
- How long does cooked winter squash last after being frozen and thawed? Cooked winter squash that has been thawed in the fridge can be kept for an additional 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator before cooking; winter squash that was thawed in the microwave or in cold water should be eaten immediately.
- How to tell if cooked winter squash is bad? The best way is to smell and look at the winter squash: discard any that has an off smell or appearance, do not taste first.
Sources: For details about data sources used for food storage information, please
Buttercup squash are round, green-skinned winter squash, many of which develop the characteristic turban-shaped cap. These are long-keeping squashes. The most difficult thing about winter squash is peeling it -even smooth-skinned varieties, such as butternut, can defeat many peelers. For acorn and other bumpy squash, you have no choice but to cook with the skin still on. Try baking, roasting, boiling or mashing them. All species of squashes and pumpkins are native to the Western Hemisphere. Since this is a plant that requires a fair amount of hot weather for best growth, it has never become very well known in northern Europe, the British Isles, or in similar areas with short or cool summers.
Buttercup squash, like all winter squashes, is a good source of carotenoids, nutrients that improve night vision and eye health. As vision acuity often decreases with age, it is particularly important for seniors to get enough dietary carotenoids. Carotenoids are also antioxidants, and can decrease the risk of certain cancers. Additionally, squash contains a high amount of vitamin C, which plays an important role in immune function and disease prevention.
Storing & Cooking Information
Handling: The most difficult thing about winter squash is peeling it -even smooth-skinned varieties, such as butternut, can defeat many peelers. For acorn and other bumpy squash, you have no choice but to cook with the skin still on.
Storing: Winter squash will last 3-6 months stored at room temperature in a dry and cool (50-55 degrees) but not cold location.
Freezing: Cook the squash until soft, scoop out the flesh, pack in freezer containers, label, and place in the freezer.
Curing Your Winter Squash for Storage
Before I started gardening, I used to think winter squash referred to the squash that grew over winter.
Only after harvesting my very first “winter” squash did I realize all the pumpkins, hubbards, butternuts, and turbans that arrived at the turn of cool weather actually took three or four months to get there!
Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita mixta, and Cucurbita pepo are summer-growing annuals, maturing through the warmer months and storing through the winter (with some varieties even holding into the following spring).
Though you can use them right away (and what’s more heartwarming than a butternut roasted to sugary sweetness or blended into delectable creaminess as the weather turns cooler?), you can also save them for two, three, even six months from now. Curing your winter squash doesn’t take any more time than it does to harvest them, and is well worth the extra step.
Winter squash differ from summer squash in that they’re picked at the end of the season when their rinds have toughened up, their seeds have fully developed, and their leaves have started to wither.
The leaves are the first sign of fruit maturity. Once they start to yellow on their own and the vines look like they’re on their way out (before frost hits), the squash should be fully ripe.
But don’t wait until the first frost! Squash that has been hit with frost will not ripen or store well.
A tan, cracked, and hardened stem that’s died off is a good clue to look at; so is resistance to the stab of a fingernail. You might make a slight dent in the skin, but you shouldn’t be able to puncture all the way through the flesh.
The squash should sound hollow when you give it a good thump with your hand, and the skin’s glossy sheen will give way to a duller tone.
At this point, cut the squash from the plant, leaving at least 3 inches of stem. The stem is the fruit’s fail-safe seal against rot and disease, so avoid lifting it by the stem and instead hold it from the bottom.
Despite their burly appearance, winter squash actually require a little babying to keep them from spoiling. Treat them gently while their skins continue to toughen up and the sun heals any cuts or cracks that could lead to rotting later.
A few minor marks on the surface are generally nothing to worry about, but these are the squash that should eventually be eaten first. Same goes for squash that might be bruised or broken; they won’t store well.
Squash may also develop ground stains on their skin where they laid on the ground while growing. These superficial spots are merely discolorations and have no effect on the flesh underneath.
Once you’ve harvested all your squash, lay them out in the sun in a warm, well-ventilated area (around 80°F to 85°F is ideal). Mine are simply spread out in the field where they’re not in the way.
If there’s a threat of rain coming, move them inside to a dry, cozy place like an attic near a sunny window, a sun room, or a greenhouse, or even a sunny windowsill. Just don’t forget about them!
Winter squash need a good two weeks of warmth and sunlight to properly cure. In that time, the fruit continues to “breathe” but as its skin hardens, the rate of respiration (and thus the rate of spoilage) slows down. The harder the skin is, the longer it will keep in storage.
Think of the hardened skin as a protective layer of armor; it makes the squash impervious to mold and bacteria. Curing also concentrates the natural sugars in squash, making them sweeter and richer.
I like to turn my squash over after one week and let the other side soak up some sun for the remaining week. Under cloudy conditions, allow two weeks per side.
Once fully cured, store your squash in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area with an ambient room temperature below 70°F. Very cold conditions (anything under 50°F) will shorten storage life.
Don’t just lump all your squash together into a large bin and call it good; stash them in a single layer on a shelf with ample air circulation, where they’re easy to check on throughout the season. You want to keep an eye out for blemishes and soft spots and use those up first.
The following winter squash hold well with proper curing:
In general, the harder and thicker the rind, the longer it will store.
Acorn squash is an exception to the curing rule, as it declines in quality if left in the sun. It keeps (without curing) in ideal conditions for a month or two at most.
Sometimes I’ll get lucky and a squash will store longer than expected. I love to pull out, say, a hubbard in March — a squash that I’d harvested back in August! With only a couple of winter squash plants, you could be set on soups and roasts until the following spring when the weather finally turns warmer.
Here’s how to cook acorn squash. Cooking acorn squash is so easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t experimented with this healthy powerhouse of flavor and nutrition!
With a little know-how and a few prep tips, acorn squash will be a regular on your menu rotation all through the summer and into fall! There are so many tasty squash recipes like Butternut Squash Soup, it’ll be hard to find a favorite!
A good acorn squash should look deep green in color on the outside and feel heavy in your hands. Avoid squash that are cracked, mushy or leaking. There should be a slightly sweet smell at the base.
How to Cut Acorn Squash
Place the acorn squash on its side on a kitchen towel over a sturdy work surface. The towel will help keep it from slipping away while it’s being cut. Using a sharp knife, position the blade between one of the ridges at the top and gently ease the knife through the thick part of the flesh until you reach the hollow center.
This may take some muscle, and don’t be afraid to reposition the knife as necessary. It’s okay to turn the squash over and cut from the top of the stem there as well.
Typically, the stem will remain with one of the halves. Once the squash has been fully cut through, pull apart the two halves and scoop out the stringy pulp and seeds (you can bake the seeds the same as Roasted Pumpkin Seeds)! Now you’re ready for baked squash!
How to Roast Acorn Squash
Here’s how to cook acorn squash so it comes out perfect every time. Roasted acorn squash is a vegetarian’s dream because the sweet, mild flavor complements so many other things like beans, nuts, and cheese. Stuffed acorn squash is often found on menus in vegan restaurants because it is easy to popular and easy to prepare as an entire entrée but it’s also amazing stuffed with ground beef. Roasted acorn squash is a cinch!
Just oil and season each half, and place, flesh side up on a greased sheet pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 400°F. Once fully cooked, the roasted squash can then be used as bowl or the flesh can be scooped out and served!
More Squash Recipes You’ll Love
- Roasted Butternut Squash
- Easy Baked Zucchini
- Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili – Perfect for cold weather
- How to Cook Spaghetti Squash In The Microwave
- Greek Spaghetti Squash – Fresh and easy!
- Baked Spaghetti Squash
- Crispy Zucchini Fries (oven baked) – Appetizer or snack!
Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 45 minutes Total Time 55 minutes Servings 4 servings Author Holly Nilsson Course How To, Lunch Cuisine American Here’s how to cook acorn squash. Cooking acorn squash is so easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t experimented with this healthy powerhouse of flavor and nutrition!
- 2 acorn squash
- 4 tablespoons butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar optional
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- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Cut acorn squash in half. Using a large spoon, scoop out seeds and pulp and discard.
- Place squash in a shallow baking pan cut side up.
- Rub with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper (and brown sugar if using).
Roast uncovered (flesh side up) for 40-50 minutes or until golden and tender.
For a sweeter version, sprinkle squash with brown sugar before roasting. Nutrition Information Calories: 209, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 108mg, Potassium: 747mg, Carbohydrates: 28g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Protein: 1g, Vitamin A: 1140%, Vitamin C: 23.7%, Calcium: 79%, Iron: 1.5%
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)
Keyword how to cook acorn squash, roasted acorn squash © SpendWithPennies.com. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited. Please view my photo use policy here.
How to cure and store winter squash
It’s been a great year for winter squash, and there are lots of our favorite butternut squash in the garden, concealed beneath their prickly blanket of huge leaves. We’ve been checking on them, reading them, watching for the subtle shift from pale beige to the beige that spells ripeness. Before too long, a light frost might cause the leaves to wither and the squash will be easier to see and to pick when ready.
But if we wait too long, we’ll lose the crop. Picked too soon, unripe, they won’t keep well or taste good. If a big bad frost threatens and they are not ripe, we’ll cover what we can with tarps. When the vines wither on their own in fall, sans frost, it’s a sign that they are ripe. So is resistance to a stab of the fingernail.
A winter squash seems tough, hard and durable, but don’t be fooled. It must be babied to avoid any nicks or scratches that let in bacteria and cause decay. We want those squash right now, in smooth soups or roasted to sugary sweetness in the oven, but we also want them in March, April and May. And these are great keepers if treated right. We’ll clip the stems an inch from the fruits with pruners, never yanking or tearing, never using the stem as a handle. Never throwing the fruit into buckets.
Once they are off the vine, we’ll let them cure in the field in what we hope will be warm, sunny weather. Heat such as this will not only toughen the skin, heal tiny cracks and thereby help them keep better, but also make them sweeter-tasting, because heat increases their sugar content. If the weather is cold and/or wet, we’ll bring them indoors and find a warm, dry place to cure them. A greenhouse would be ideal, a sunroom or an attic. Maybe a few atop the kitchen cabinets. Never mind if they collect a little dust. They can be tenderly rinsed off and dried with towels, the way you would your best Limoges. Even three weeks is not too long for this curing process.
Then what? Find a cool, dry, well-ventilated spot where the temperature does not go below 50 degrees or above 68. The basement is out unless it’s very dry. Most home cellars, not to mention root cellars, would invite mold. Maybe there’s a spare room at your place, a guest room perhaps, where you could stash them, on nice soft rug, under the bed. Explain to guests what they are and why they are there.
The only trouble with a spot like that is it’s out of sight, out of mind. You’ll need to keep checking for dark spots or shriveling. Squash that are starting to spoil should be composted. But those that keep well will give you a winter of wonderful, sweet, bright orange, carotene-rich flesh, hidden beneath the beige.
Damrosch’s latest book is “The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.”
Tip of the week
Last call for lawn seeding for the year: Seed requires good soil contact and even moisture to grow. Cultivate areas to be seeded with a rake, add some soil amendments and sow seed at the recommended rate. Mist renovated areas daily until grasses become established. It might take two weeks or more for turf-type tall fescue seed to germinate. Next month, keep the seedlings free of fallen leaves.
— Adrian Higgins
Winter Squash: Storage Tips
Squash are easy to grow in Vermont too, if you have the space for them. And if you don’t, not to worry because undoubtedly someone you know grew too much.
When buying squash for storage, it is important to find the unblemished fruit. Any little ding will only get worse in storage, and will affect the quality of other squash as well. Most varieties store well in the pantry through much of winter.
When properly cured, most varieties of winter squash will last through the winter. Proper curing means the water content was just right at harvest and they were set in a sunny and dry place for 7 to 10 days just after harvest. If you are buying them locally you can find out if they were cured well for storage. Or you can chance it and check them often for bruising.
Squash store best at an even 50°F in a dark place. This could be a cool and dark shelf, cabinet, or drawer in the kitchen, pantry, or closet. They also store well in a warmer section of the root cellar such as on the top shelf.
How to Pack Them
Squash are better off not touching each other or any hard surfaces. Wrapping them individually in cloth or paper is helpful but also makes checking on them more difficult. Butternut and acorn varieties seem to store the longest.
While in Storage
Check and cull them often to make sure the squash are not developing soft spots. Turning them can keep them from bruising. Remove damaged fruit and use them up soon.
How Long They Last
Under ideal conditions and depending on the variety, winter squash will store for 2–4 months. Compost them when they develop soft spots on the skin or a soft stem.
Try to keep the storage temperature even, fluctuating temperatures will encourage rotting. Squash that have thinner skin and so do not store as well include: delicata, a small and tall yellow squash with dark green stripes that is quite sweet (use by January); spaghetti squash, a large yellow variety with a stringy center and a summery flavor; and pie pumpkins, the small orange pumpkins that kids love, their sweet meat is excellent for pies.
A Note on Storing Food
Storing food in small amounts is easy, but in larger quantities it can be tricky in our increasingly energy efficient homes. Small amounts of things that like it moist like greens, roots, and tubers can be stored in the refrigerator, and things that like it drier like onions, garlic, and winter squash can be stored on the counter top.
When trying to determine the right place in your home to store a box or boxes of produce, a good place to start is by monitoring temperatures in your home. Get a bunch of thermometers and place them in closets, hallways, and the places that are generally dark and have mostly even temperatures. Chart those temperatures through a winter before you get too serious about storing food.
Learn about storing greens, potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, and similar roots, onions and garlic, and winter squash.
Storage Tips Cooking Tips curing root cellar squash storage
How to Cure Squash for Storage
Harvesting winter squash is probably my favorite fall garden activity. There is something so satisfying about bringing winter squash in from the garden, whether it is the sheer array of colors and textures or just the more primal urge to hoard food for the winter like an oversized squirrel.
Squash can keep for months under the right conditions, which means that I get to enjoy the taste of homegrown squash all winter long. So, how do you convince squash to stick around? You cure it. Here are the steps you need to take to cure your squash and ensure that your bumper crop doesn’t go to waste.
Harvest Squash For Storage
The first step might seem obvious, but it is actually very important. Before you can cure your squash, you need to harvest it.
Harvesting your squash at the optimum time improves its shelf life. If you’ve been growing squash for a while, you probably already know how to tell when a squash is ripe, but this can be tricky for new gardeners or for gardeners trying out a new variety.
The first clue that a squash is ripe is the stem. Green, living stems indicate that a squash is still maturing, so come back for these fruits later. The stem brings all of the vital nutrients to the fruit as it develops. A ripe squash is done growing, which means that the stem is no longer needed. The stems of ripe squash appear brown and hard.
Some gardeners can tell a squash is done by slapping the fruit. Ripe fruits make a hollow sound, but I have never fully trusted my squash slapping judgment. I prefer the fingernail test. If you carefully press your fingernail into the fruit, the skin should dent but not puncture. The skin also loses the sheen of youth as it matures, giving mature squash a tell-tale dull look that screams “pick me.”
Harvest your squash with a knife or clippers and leave 3-4 inches of stem, especially for pumpkins (you can get away with 2-3 inches for other varieties), but be careful when harvesting as these stems can damage neighboring squash. Never handle them by the stems, either – stems might look like a convenient handle, but they are not as sturdy as they seem. Punctures or bruising during harvest can lead to trouble with mold and fungus down the road.
Occasionally the elements conspire against us. If an early frost threatens your squash before they are ready, don’t panic. You have two options.
- Simply harvest them with a slightly longer stem. Include some of the main stem as well as the 4-inch stem you would normally leave so that your squash looks like it has a T-shaped handle.
- Cover your squash in the garden with a tarp, blanket, row cover, or some other protective layer and buy yourself a little more time
Cure Squash For Storage
Now that you have labored in the fields to bring in your squash, it is time to cure them. Wipe off dirt from your squash with a rag but refrain from washing them. You don’t want your squash getting wet during the curing stage.
Squash cure in sunlight. This hardens the skins to create a long-lasting seal around your fruits and also intensifies the flavor. You might also notice that the color deepens, giving you squash you might be more tempted to display than eat.
Cure your squash by placing them in a greenhouse or a sunny windowsill. Let them sit for two weeks in the sun and then flip them over and let the other side cure for another two weeks. When the squash are done curing, buff them with a polish of olive oil. This creates a moisture-tight barrier between your squash and the outside world, although it not absolutely necessary.
It takes about a month to cure squash, but all that time is worth it, as it means that you will have squash for the colder months to come.
Store the Squash
Now that you have a beautiful stash of cured squash, how do you store it? Squash actually keep at room temperature (ideally between 50°F and 68°F), which is great because it means you don’t need to clear out more room in the root cellar. A spare room in your house or a frost-free shed will work well for storing squash.
There are a few things to keep in mind as you put your squash away for the winter. Like most vegetables, squash prefer dry, well-ventilated settings. You will need to make sure that there is adequate air circulation around each of the fruits to prevent any moisture from building up. Squash also object to being stored directly on the ground or hard surfaces. Store your squash on racks or wire mesh, and cushion them with a layer of newspaper or straw.
Resist the urge to stack your squash. Stacking creates pressure points that can damage your fruit and also limits air circulation. Take the time to build some simple racks or shelves out of chicken wire, and no matter where you store them, keep an eye out for rodent damage and check on them occasionally. Remove any spoiled squash.
I enjoy the curing process. It gives me more time to admire my crop and reflect on the hard work and effort that went into them. Sometimes I even take a step back from this self-congratulating and offer up thanks in honor of the season — preferably over a freshly roasted butternut.