Picking Winter Squash – How And When To Harvest Butternut Squash

Image by Alice Carrier

By Jackie Rhoades

You’ve watered and weeded and fought off the dreaded vine borer. Over the summer your few small plants have grown and grown and grown and you’ve ended the season with a dozen or more of the tan skinned, edible gourds. As delicious as they are, you can’t eat them all at once! So, you’ve got these questions about how to harvest butternut squash, when to harvest butternut squash and what do I do after harvesting butternut squash?

Butternut squash, a type of winter squash, is a flavorful source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. At 80 calories per cup, this naturally sweet treat is a dieter’s delight. It’s also a great source of iron, niacin, potassium and beta carotene, which is converted in the body to Vitamin A (necessary to healthy vision, skin and bones). It’s great to know that without canning or freezing, you can store your butternut squash harvest for use through the winter and spring.

When to Harvest Butternut Squash

It’s time for picking butternut squash when the rind is hard and they have turned a deep, solid tan. It’s best to leave the majority of your crop on the vine until late September or October to ensure the thick skins necessary for winter storage, but make sure you have your butternut squash harvest in before the first frost.

How to Harvest Butternut Squash

When picking butternut squash, carefully cut the fruit from the vine with a sharp knife. Make sure about 2 inches of stem is still attached to the squash. Short stems or no stems at all invite bacteria in through the temporary soft spot where the stem once was.

Fruits that have been bruised, cut or have their stem removed should be eaten as soon as possible because they won’t store well. Fruit that has been severely damaged during your butternut squash harvest should be consigned to the compost heap, where you might find seedlings sprouting next year!

Now that you know when to harvest butternut squash and how to harvest butternut squash, you need to know how to store them. After you finish picking butternut squash, it needs to be cured. All that means is that you have to let the squash sit at room temperature for a week or two to fully harden the skin. They’ll need a temperature of about 70 F. (20 C.), but please don’t leave them outdoors where they’ll be vulnerable to insects.

Once cured, the fruit should be stored in a cool dry place (40-50 F./4-10 C.) such as a basement or garage. Don’t let them freeze. Properly stored, your butternut squash harvest should last from three to six months.

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