As any gardening enthusiast, I’ve always loved the rich, nutty flavor of butternut squash. You might be wondering when to harvest butternut squash for the most delicious taste.
Typically, butternut squash is ready to be picked in late fall, just before the frosts come. However, depending on your planting schedule and local climate, it could be ready in the summer. It’s essential to know the signs of when your squash is ripe and ready for harvest.
To know when your butternut squash is ripe, look for two things: the skin will turn from green to a deep beige color, and it will be hard enough not to mark when you press it with your fingernail. Keep track of the number of days since you planted it to get an idea of when to harvest.
Remember, it is crucial to harvest most of your crop before heavy frosts, typically in September or October. Make sure to store your harvested butternut squash properly to keep its flavor intact and have a delicious meal every time you cook it!
Best Timing for Harvesting Butternut Squash
- Look for a deep beige skin color and resistance to fingernail pressing as indicators of ripeness
- Keep track of planting time to estimate squash maturation
- Harvest before heavy frosts to avoid damage and ensure a tasty crop
Color and Skin Appearance
When it comes to harvesting butternut squash, one key factor to consider is the color and skin characteristics. A ripe butternut squash has a deep tan or beige color. The skin should no longer be shiny, and the rind should be hard. Always look for a squash with a solid tan rind, which indicates its maturity.
Size and Weight of the Squash
Butternut squash can vary in size, but a general rule of thumb is to harvest them when they’ve reached a good weight and size. Though specific dimensions can differ, a ripe squash typically feels hefty when you lift it. Try picking it up and see if its heaviness indicates it’s ready for harvest.
Testing the Fruit Rind
Another method to determine the ripeness of your butternut squash is by testing the fruit rind. Perform a simple fingernail test by attempting to push your fingernail into the skin of the squash.
If your fingernail doesn’t leave a mark, it signifies that the rind is tough enough, and the squash is ripe for harvest.
Timing and Growing Season
Usually, butternut squash is ready to be picked in late fall or early winter. But, if you plant your squash early enough, they could be ready in the summer. Observe the growing season and local weather conditions. Depending on your climate, you might need to harvest most of your crop before heavy frosts in September or October.
I like to keep a gardening journal to track the planting and growing season of my butternut squash, along with my other crops. This allows me to predict their ripeness more accurately and plan my harvesting time accordingly.
Butternut Squash Harvesting Techniques
Using the Right Tools
When it’s time to harvest your butternut squash, make sure you have the right tools for the job. A sharp knife, garden shears, or pruners are essential for making clean cuts and preventing damage to the vine. Using the appropriate tools also helps ensure the squash doesn’t spoil quickly.
As a home gardener, I found that pruners worked best for me, as they allowed for a precise cut while harvesting my butternut squash. Don’t forget to wear gloves and protective clothing when working with the plant to avoid getting scratched.
Remember to follow these steps when harvesting your butternut squash:
Butternut Squash Curing & Storing
After harvesting your butternut squash, it’s important to cure them for better storage. Curing helps to harden the skin and heal any cuts or bruises on the squash.
To cure your winter squash, place them in a warm, well-ventilated area, like a sunny spot or a room with good air circulation, for about 7-10 days. Make sure the squash isn’t touching to prevent mold growth.
I like to cure my butternut squash on top of my kitchen cabinets. It makes use of that space and looks pretty, too.
Ideal Storage Conditions
Once the butternut squash has been cured, it’s time to store them. The conventional gardening wisdom says to choose a cool and dark place, such as a basement or a root cellar. The temperature should be between 50-60°F (10-15°C) and a relative humidity of about 50-70%.
However, I’ve found all my winter squashes to last just fine on shelves indoors, at room temperature. They don’t seem to dry out and save me the extra step of curing my butternut squash and then moving them to a storage location.
Arrange the cured squash in a single layer with some space between each one for better air circulation. Regularly check your stored squash for signs of mold or decay and remove any affected ones to prevent contamination.
Freezing Butternut Squash
If you have an abundance of butternut squash and want to preserve some for later use, freezing is a good option.
To freeze your squash, first wash and peel it, then cut it into small pieces. you can either blanch the pieces in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or freeze them raw. Once cooled, spread the butternut squash cubes out on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer.
When fully frozen, transfer the pieces to a freezer-safe bag or container. This will allow you to enjoy your butternut squash for up to six months.
As an alternative, you can place all the butternut squash cubes directly inside a bag and lay the bag flat in the freezer. I find that if I shake the butternut squash bag 1-2 hours after placing it in the freezer, the pieces won’t stick together as much.
Butternut Squash Common Problems & Fixes
Preventing Damage and Bruising
To avoid damaging your butternut squash while harvesting, handle them with care. Make sure to cut the stem instead of pulling the fruit from the vine. This prevents breaking the skin, which can lead to bruising and rotting.
When moving the squash, avoid throwing or stacking them on top of each other, as this can also lead to bruising. Store them in a single layer, ideally with a little space between each fruit.
Handling Unripe Squash
In case you accidentally harvest an unripe squash, don’t worry. Place it in a sunny spot or a warm area indoors, allowing it to continue ripening.
Unripe squash will have a greenish skin and won’t pass the fingernail test – scratching the skin should not leave a mark. Once the squash turns a tan or brownish color and the skin hardens, it’s ready to be consumed.
Dealing With Rotting
If you notice your squash is rotting, act quickly. Remove the affected fruit from the storage area to prevent the spread of mold or rot to your other squash.
Again, conventional advice says to store your squash in a cool (50-55°F), dark, and well-ventilated space. However, my root cellar was experiencing temperatures that were too low in the winter, so I decided to store my butternut squash in my kitchen.
All my squash lasted surprisingly long every year when stored this way. However, whenever we left home for extended periods of time, and the temperature dropped to about 55°F, the squash ended up rotting.
The main culprit, I’ve found, for rotting butternut squash, is a drop in the storage temperature, or temperature fluctuations. If it gets too cold, your butternut squash will spoil quickly.
I don’t advise cutting out the rotten part and consuming your squash if you’re dealing with mold, as the mold spores can extend to other parts of the squash and not be visible.
You now have all the knowledge and tools to make butternut squash a staple in your garden. If you enjoyed this content, check our other squash-related articles: