Have you ever picked your winter squash in hopes of keeping it all winter only to find it rotting a few weeks later? Unfortunately if all the correct steps aren’t taken this can happen. So today I want to show you exactly how to store winter squash for long term storage.
I remember years ago before I really got into gardening, thinking that winter squash meant that you grew it in the winter.
Which didn’t really make sense because I knew that people didn’t grow squash in winter.
But the word “winter” really threw me off.
I soon learned that what “winter” really meant was that winter squash varieties could be stored through the winter to use months later as long as all the right harvesting and curing steps were taken.
So whereas summer squash only lasts a couple weeks and needs to be used up quickly, winter squash can be stored for months.
Pretty awesome right!
So for years I’ve been growing all types of winter squash varieties, the only problem was that I never grew enough at once to store any for later use. Until this past year.
My favorite winter squash of all is spaghetti squash and I planted so much that I had about 30 spaghetti squash to store at the end of the season.
I was so excited, I quickly picked them all and put them in boxes inside the house. Then a couple weeks later went to grab one for dinner only to see that they were ALL moldy!
It was devastating…
So I quickly did my research and found out that I did it all wrong.
So now I am excited to teach you all the right ways to harvest, cure, and store your squash so that you don’t end up with rotten squash like I did.
How to Store Winter Squash the Right Way
As you know from reading above, if you don’t harvest winter squash the right way and take all the necessary steps to curing and storing, it’s possible to end up with a bunch of rotten squash.
Well I personally know how upsetting it was, so I hope you never have to go through the same experience.
So to start off with, here are some different winter squash varieties to plant.
1.) Acorn Squash
2.) Blue Hubbard Squash
3.) Buttercup Squash
4.) Butternut Squash
5.) Carnival Squash
6.) Delicata Squash
7.) Kabocha Squash
8.) Red Kabocha Squash
9.) Red Kuri Squash
10.) Spaghetti Squash
11.) Sweet Dumpling Squash
If you’d like to learn how to cook all of the different squash varieties, this article has recipes for each one.
When to Plant Winter Squash
Winter squash is planted at the same time as all your summer squash varieties. It just takes longer to mature and gets one harvest at the end of the season.
The recommended first outdoor transplanting date for winter squash is 2 weeks after you last frost.
The recommended first direct seeding is once all danger of frost has past and the soil has reached 70 degrees F.
The last recommended planting date will vary depending on the variety.
How to Harvest
The first thing you should do is look on the seed packet of each variety and check days to maturity. This will give you an estimation of when each variety will be ready to pick.
Although, keep in mind that it is better to harvest winter squash late versus too early. But be sure that you harvest before a frost hits. The squash can usually handle a light frost, but a hard freeze will ruin it.
Next, when it is approaching the time to harvest, check the skin on each squash. It should have fully colored and when you poke it with your nail it should not leave a puncture mark.
The next thing you can do is tap on the outside of the squash to see if it sounds hallow. If it does, that’s a sign that it’s ready.
Once you know that your squash is ripe, use a pair of gardening shears and cut each squash from the vine, leaving about an inch of the stem.
Once you get all your squash picked the next step is curing.
How to Cure
There are only certain winter squashes that need to be cured which include:
- Blue Hubbard
Then there are winter squashes that should not be cured such as acorn squash because it’ll end up shortening its shelf life.
But for those that need to be cured here is the process.
First, dip your squash into a water bath of 135-140 degree F water. Or wash the surface with a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
This will kill any bacteria on the outside of the squash. Then immediately dry the squash off with a clean dry cloth.
Second, put your squash in a temperature controlled area to cure. Depending on the size of your harvest, you could use a temperature controlled greenhouse, shed, or cabinet.
Third, set up a humidity meter and if the humidity is below 80% get a humidifier. If it is above 85% get a dehumidifier.
The humidity level is important because when it’s too high it encourages rot and when it’s too low it causes the squash to dry out.
Fourth, place your squash 3-5 inches apart on some type of soft material such as carpet, kitchen towels, thick stacks of newspaper, etc.
Fifth, keep the temperature maintained at 80-85 degrees F for a majority of the time each day. But most importantly, make sure the temperature never drops below 50 degrees F.
Sixth, check on your squash daily to look for problems such as bruises, dark spots, or other external blemishes.
If you notice small spots that are only skin-deep you are safe to eat the squash and should use it up quickly. But if the skin is soft and moist get rid of the squash.
Last, cure your squash for about 10-21 days. The time needed will vary, but the curing process increases the sugar content in the squash, hardens the outer skin, heals minor cuts, and extends the storage life.
So once you notice that the skin has hardened it can be transferred to the area you have for storage.
How to Store
You should store your cured squash in a cool dry area with good circulation and a temperature of 50-55 degrees F and a humidity level of 50-75%.
It is best to store them on a soft material on shelves that are up off of the floor.
While storing your squash, be sure to keep them away from any ripening fruits that produce ethylene gas such as bananas and apples because they will end up shortening the shelf life of the squash.
How Long Will Winter Squash Store
The storage life for each squash will depend on the variety, but for example:
Acorn squash has the shortest shelf life around 5-8 weeks (remember to not cure acorn squash)
Butternut squash lasts for 2-3 months
Spaghetti squash around 3 months
Hubbard squash up to 6 months
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