Get The Most Out of Your Winter Squash from Backyard Eats
Harvesting Winter Squash
When It’s Ready
- Winter Squash is ready to harvest in the early fall, before a frost
- Once the squash has reached your desired size
- “Wait until the plants die back and the shells are hard. A light frost can improve the flavor by changing some of their starch to sugar, but it will also shorten their storage life. It’s better to pick all ripe fruits before an expected frost and cover any unripe ones with a heavy mulch. You can even carefully gather the vines and fruit close together and protect them with tarps or blankets.” [RUEOG]
When It’s Too Late
- If any signs of frost damage, pest damage, or rotting are present.
- “Harvest during dry weather. Use a sharp knife or pruners to cut the fruit from the vine, leaving 2 to 3 inches of stem on the fruit. Pulling the fruit off may damage the stem, and the whole fruit may soon rot from that damaged end.” [RUEOG]
Growing Winter Squash
Winter squash comes in many varieties. The flavor of winter squash is generally sweet and nutty, with a dense and creamy texture. One popular method is to roast it in the oven, either halved or cut into cubes, with a little bit of oil and seasoning. You can also steam, boil, or sauté winter squash, and it can be added to soups, stews, and curries.
Varieties of Winter Squash:
Acorn Squash | Pie Pumpkin | Butternut Squash | Delicata Squash
Storing Winter Squash
“Never wash any winter squash that you intend to store. Dry all types in the sun until the stems shrivel and turn gray; the exception is acorn squash, which doesn’t need curing. If placed in a cool, dry area with temperatures of 45° to 50°F and with 65 to 70 percent humidity, winter squash will keep for up to 5 months. Acorn squash needs a slightly cooler and moister storage area.” [RUEOG]
Cooking With Winter Squash
- Roasted Winter Squash: Cut winter squash, such as butternut or acorn squash, into cubes or wedges. Toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs or spices. Roast in the oven until the squash is tender and caramelized.
- Winter Squash Soup: Cook peeled and diced winter squash with onions, garlic, vegetable or chicken broth, and warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend the mixture until smooth for a comforting and velvety winter squash soup.
- Stuffed Winter Squash: Cut winter squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and fill the cavities with a mixture of cooked grains, sautéed vegetables, cheese, and herbs. Bake until the squash is tender and the filling is heated through.
- Winter Squash Risotto: Incorporate cooked and mashed winter squash into a creamy risotto. Sauté onions and garlic, add Arborio rice, and gradually stir in vegetable broth and white wine. Finish with grated Parmesan cheese for a rich and satisfying dish.
- Winter Squash Curry: Cube winter squash and simmer it in a flavorful curry sauce made with coconut milk, curry paste or powder, ginger, garlic, and other spices. Serve the curry over rice for a warming and aromatic winter squash dish.