Friday, August 5, 2011

When the winter squash is ready . . .

I tell people that squash vines are taking over my garden and their typical response is: my squash didn’t last this long. Then I clarify that I’m not talking about yellow squash and zucchini. Rather, I’m growing winter squashes.

I fell in love with winter squash, especially butternut, a few years ago when I realized how versatile it is. Roast it, bake it, puree it. Cube it and add it to soup. This week I went to a luncheon that included a mashed squash dish that was delicious.

So I’ve expanded my winter squash attempts this gardening season. I’m growing pumpkins and have two that are a great size right now. Then there are butternut, acorn and delicata squashes. I fear the butternuts and delicata might have cross-pollinated in a couple of places because I have giant butternut shaped squash with stripes like the delicatas. Oh well, it will still taste like some sort of squash.

To test the ripeness of winter squash, push your fingernail into the skin. If the indentation disappears quickly, it’s almost ripe. Leave winter squash (except for acorn) in the garden or elsewhere in the sun for two weeks so it will cure. Then you’ll be able to store it for months and use it in the winter.

Although I’m contemplating digging a storage hole in the backyard (there are various methods for this there were introduced by native Americans), I’ve had success the past couple of years with curing the squash then leaving it on a side table in the dining room until we use it, which sometimes is four or five months after harvest. The dining room is the least-used, dimmest and coolest room in our house and it works well.

Maybe we’ll have squash to eat tonight.


  1. I'm jealous of your winter squash! I tried to grow pumpkins this year, and it seemed liked they were thriving, but the past couple of weeks, they've all died. I'm not sure what I've done wrong - or if some critters got to them (because my tomato plant - which has almost ripe tomatoes on them - has been rid of most of the tomatoes!)

  2. Gotta love a winter squash grower! Butternut squash is just wonderful. I bake it flesh side down on a cookie sheet so it will carmelize then puree it to make soup......mmmm.
    Thanks for the great tips on how to prepare them for winter storage!