They are space hogs, for sure, but when it’s finally time to harvest and you see how truly beautiful they are and how delicious they are going to be, it makes growing winter squash seem worth the space and effort.
Thankfully most winter squash varieties have minimal problems. I don’t put the plants in the garden until after Memorial Day, so most squash pests have long since moved on. If I can keep the powdery mildew at bay and prevent the vines from swallowing the rest of the garden, I’m home free.
My “just enough for two” Baby Blue Hubbards, in the upper right corner, will keep all winter. I wish I had more of them. But the Sweet Dumplings here, in the upper right corner, are an acorn squash. They don’t last as long, so I’ll have to force myself to eat them soon. There are worse problems.
Here are my tips for curing and storing winter squash, so you can look forward to some comfort food from your garden when winter threatens to never leave.
1. Make sure they are fully ripe, before you harvest. The skin of butternuts and hubbards will harden so that a thumb nail will not poke through it. They will also lose their shine, becoming duller as they mature. Acorns may harden, but they won’t store for long periods, so use them as you harvest.
Approximate Storage Times
|Acorn||1 – 2 months|
|Butternut||2 – 3 months|
|Hubbard||5 – 6 months|
|Pumpkins||2 – 3 months|
2. Don’t store injured fruits.
3. Don’t harvest when wet.
4. Cut the stem and leave 3 – 4 in. on pumpkins, 1 in. on other types.
5. Don’t use the stem as a handle. Wounds near the stem will cause the fruits to rot.
6. Try not to wash the harvested fruit. If you must, use a 1 to 10 mix of bleach and water.
7. Cure in a warm (75 – 85 F.), dry spot for 10 to 20 days.
8. Make sure fruits are dry, before storing.
9. Don’t stack.
10. Store in a cool (50 – 55 F.), dry place.
11. Give them good ventilation and relative humidity between 50 to 75%.
And for goodness sake, eat them. As beautiful as they are to look at, they are meant for dinner. You can always grow more next year.