How to Harvest Winter Squash
Winter squash and pumpkins are generally ready to be harvested in early- to mid-autumn, usually late September through October.
- Harvest winter squash when they are fully mature for the best success with storage later on.
- A winter squash is ripening when its skin turns a deep, solid color (usually orange, tan, or blue).
- Harvest winter squash when the skin feels hard. Press your nail into the skin; if it resists puncture, it is ripe. The stems will also be tough and the plant’s foliage will start to die back.
- Harvest on a dry day after the vines have died back.
- Leave an inch or two of stem on winter squashes when harvesting them.
- Cut the squash off the vine carefully with a sharp knife or pruners; do not tear, as you could break the fruit stem or the vines.
- Never carry the squash by their stem; if the stem breaks off, this exposes the skin to infection.
How to Cure Winter Squash
Winter squash must be “cured” before storage. This process helps to dry off excess moisture and to harden the skin, sealing out fungi and bacteria and allowing the squash to keep for longer.
If the weather is dry, just leave your squash on the vine and let them cure outside in the sunshine. If it’s wet or turning colder, bring the squash inside and put them somewhere warm and dry, such as a slatted greenhouse bench or a sunny window.
How to Store Winter Squash
Store winter squash on racks in a cool (50° to 55°F), dry place. Before you do that, for extra protection, you could give your winter hard-skinned squash a quick wipe with a mild bleach solution (about 1 part household beach to 10 parts water). This serves as a final barrier to fungal and bacterial pathogens.
Winter squash will last anywhere from a month for spaghetti squash types to 6 months for Hubbard varieties and butternut squash. Many of the hard-rinded Hubbards, butternuts, buttercup, and kabocha types will keep 6 months or more if free from injury, properly cured, and stored in a cool, dry space.
Now imagine all that delectable pumpkin pie and satisfying soup!
Remember to save some seeds from the heirloom varieties to plant next year. Wash and dry the seeds. Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.