Butternut squash is a fairly easy vegetable to grow. It is best to plant it at the beginning of spring and to harvest it at the end of autumn right before the first frost. It is important to pick your butternut squash at the right time. If you pick it too early it will not have a fully developed flavor. It may be bland in taste. If you let it grow too long it may begin to rot in your garden, or be destroyed by frost.
How do you know that it’s time to pick your butternut squash? Here are some signs that your vegetable is ready.
1. Skin Color – A butternut squash originally will have green vertical lines on it. Over time the lines gradually fade away and the squash turns a tan or pale orange color. The squash is ready to harvest when it is fully tan.
2. Hard skin – The squash will be ready to harvest when the skin is hard and firm. It won’t create as much of a “shell” as a spaghetti squash, but it should not have any soft spots.
3. Dead Vine – When the butternut squash is ready to harvest the vine will shrivel up and turn brown. This is a sign to you that your squash is ripe and ready to go.
4. Size of the Squash – A butternut squash usually peeks in size between eight inches and one foot. When you notice a squash approaching this size begin to pay attention for the other signals that it’s ready to pick.
5. The Weather – The butternut squash grows right through fall and toes the line into winter. Make sure to pick the squash before the first frost or it will be destroyed.
When it’s time to pick your butternut squash make sure that you leave at least a 3 to 4 inch “stem,” so that you do not damage the skin. After harvesting let the squash cure for a week in a warm dry place and then store in a cool dry place. Make sure that they are laid apart and not touching each other. They will “keep” for about six months.
There are tons of ways to cook butternut squash. You can bake it or boil it and use it in soups, casseroles, or take out the seeds and stuff it with wild rice and ground beef. Butternut squash also works great to make baby food purees.