If you’re a gardener or a home cook, then you might know how important it is to harvest butternut squash at the right time. Such kind of flavorful winter squash variety is mainly known for its culinary versatility and sweet, rich flesh. It can hit its peak when you allow it to properly mature on the vine.
You might already know that harvesting at the right moment can give you the best quality and flavor for your long-term storage and culinary creations. Keep reading as we are going to explore how to know when to harvest butternut squash. With this, you’ll get aid in making the most of this seasonal treat.
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What is Butternut Squash?
This popular winter squash variety is prized due to its nutty, sweet flavor and vibrant orange flesh. It is characterized by its distinctive shape, mainly resembling an elongated and large pear along with a narrow neck and bulbous bottom. The skin has a cream-colored and smooth texture, whereas the inner flesh is deep and rich orange. In terms of culinary uses, it is one of the incredibly versatile. You can puree, steam, roast, or bake it to create a range of delicious dishes.
The sweet and slightly nutty taste of butternut squash pairs well along with a range of seasonings and spices. Thus, making it a popular choice for side dishes, stews, and soups. Also, it is a nutritious addition to any diet, as it is a perfect source of vitamins and vital minerals like fiber. With this combination of nutritional value and flavor, the butternut squash turns into a staple in winter and fall cooking. Generally, it can be used in comfort food dishes and holiday recipes.
How To Harvest Butternut Squash?
Harvesting butternut squash is considered a straightforward process that can be broken down into several steps. Below, we have mentioned how to harvest it:
Always keep in mind the ideal time for harvesting your butternut squash. Generally, after 75-100 days of planting, they are all set to harvest in the late summer to early fall, according to the local climate and variety.
2) Inspect Maturity
Look for the signs of maturity. If you have a mature butternut squash, then it has a solid, deep color usually a beige or warm tan, and a hard rind. Also, the skin of butternut squash will resist being punctured by your fingernail.
3) Cutting Tools
It’s time to gather the necessary tools, comprising a pair of gloves to protect hands, garden shears or sharp knives, and a basket or container for collecting the squash.
4) Locate the Stem
Look for the stem where your butternut squash is connected to the vine. Make sure the stem is woody and dry, not soft and green. Also, there should be a consistent and uniform color of squash.
5) Cut Properly
While cutting your squash from the vine, remember to leave a few inches of the attached stem. There is no need to damage the squash itself. Cutting at an angle will prevent moisture from being collected at the cut end of the stem.
6) Clean and Dry
Check the surface of the squash to wipe off any debris or dirt on it. Keep it in a shaded and well-ventilated area to air dry for a day or a few hours. With this, you’ll get aid in curing the squash, which will enhance its flavor and make it durable.
Always store your harvested butternut squash in a well-ventilated, cool, and dry place. It is ideal to have a cool, dark pantry or a cellar. There is no need to stack them rather than keep them in a single layer to allow a circulation of air.
8) Check for Damage
Inspect your stored squash periodically for signs of rot or damage. Just remove any that show spoilage signs to prevent them from affecting others.
When Should I Harvest Butternut Squash?
It is crucial to harvest butternut squash at the ideal time to ensure that it’s at its storage quality and peak flavor. Keep in mind the below points to know when the butternut squash is ready to harvest:
Make sure that the skin of the butternut squash should be tough to resist scratching along with your fingernail. If there is immature squash, then it will have more delicate and softer skin, while a fully ripened one will have more robust and thicker skin.
2) Drying of Stem
Look for the stem where the squash is attached to the vine. There will be a corky and dried stem in the case of mature butternut squash. If you find your stem is still tender and green, it would be better to leave squash a bit longer on the vine.
Before the first frost, you should aim to harvest butternut squash because cold temperatures can damage your squash. But a light frost can improve the flavor of your squash and make it sweeter.
You can check the maturity of butternut squash by examining the skin color. When it turns fully mature, the skin should be a beige color or uniform tan. There is no need to pick a squash with pale or greenish skin, as it won’t have the desired sweetness and is likely to be underripe.
5) Size and Shape
In the case of mature butternut squash, they will have an elongated and consistent pear shape. Generally, they range from 3 to 5 inches in diameter and 8 to 12 inches in length. However, irregular and smaller-shaped squash might fail to be fully mature.
6) Tapping Test
You can use your knuckles to lightly tap the squash. An underripe butternut squash will sound solid and dull, whereas a mature one will produce a woody and hollow sound.
Whether it’s a savory side dish, a delicious dessert, or a comforting soup, the harvest timing will directly impact the flavor and quality of your butternut squash creations. So, pay heed to the signals from the squash and employ the tips for your successful harvest. Now, you’re ready to savor the sweet rewards from your garden into the colder season.