You have taken the time to plant and care for your butternut squash carefully. You have watched them grow from tiny seedlings to stunning squashes. Now that the hardest part is done, you need to know when to actually take them from the vine!
Butternut squash is an amazing addition to your meals and provides plenty of health benefits, too (it’s been linked to weight loss and keeping blood pressure in check to name a few!). But before you start prepping butternut recipes, you first need to determine if your squash is ready for harvesting. Here is everything you need to know about how to harvest butternut squash!
To start your butternut squash harvest, gather your tools!
- Sharp knife, shears, or scissors
- Basket or container for collection
- Garden gloves (optional)
Step One – Knowing When to Harvest
You will see butternut squash getting close to harvest time between September and October (depending on your location). Take your time harvesting your squashes, only picking them as they ripen. However, if winter is near and frost is nigh, you must harvest your squashes before the cold arrives. Cold weather, especially frost, will damage your squashes.
Step Two – Checking if Your Butternut Squash is Ripe
Before you harvest your squash, check a few things to see if they are truly ripe for the picking. Firstly, check the color of the vines! When your squash has reached potential, the vines connected to the butternut squash will appear dried and brown. This state is called ‘corking’ and occurs because the squash no longer requires as many nutrients.
Next, check the color of your squash. Green? Not ready yet. Slightly tan? Nope, but you are getting closer. Fully tan? It’s time to pick! Taking a look at the color of your squash helps verify whether it is ready for harvesting or not. If your butternut squash is a tan color all over, this is a good sign it is ready for harvest.
Lastly, give your squash skin a poke! If your fingernail can easily scratch the squash, it is not ready. You want to find resistance to your fingernail; if you do, the squash is ripe and ready for cutting!
Remember, if you are unsure about the ripeness of your squash, it is best to leave it to ripen longer. Harvesting it too early means your squash won’t taste its best!
Step Three – Cut Your Harvest from the Vine
Grab a sharp knife, shears, or scissors from your kitchen, and select the butternut squash that is ready for harvesting. Carefully slice the stem and remove the squash from the vine. Make sure 1 to 2 inches of stem is attached to your squash. When cutting your squash from the vine, it is also essential to take care not to damage the plant. For your squash plant to continue to thrive, avoid breaking or cutting any other vines.
Pro Tip: Keep the stem on your newly harvested butternut squash! The stem is what prevents your squash from going bad too early. Having the stem on ensures it stays fresh as long as possible.
Step Four – Look Out for Bruises
If you notice some squashes on the vine are bruised or have cuts, harvest these immediately. The longer a squash has wounds on it, the more prone it is to rot or disease. If the damage is minimal, make it a priority to eat these squashes first. Damaged squashes will not store as well as those with thick, unblemished skins.
Another method to try and heal bruises and cuts is curing. To cure your butternut squash, allow it to rest in a dry, warm, and airy place for several days. If squash is severely damaged or bruised, it is suggested to compost it.
Step Five – Use Mindful Harvesting
Butternut squash plants can produce anywhere from five to 20 squashes per plant, depending on the size and variety. However, this does not mean you should harvest them all at once! Just like other harvests, mindfulness is essential when picking your produce. When butternut squash is left on the vine, it preserves the squash, ripening it further until it is ready for harvest. With this in mind, only pick the butternut squashes that are fully ripened. Too early, and your butternut squash will not have that sweet and delicious flavor for which it is famous.
At the end of the season, harvest the remaining squashes when they are ripe or if winter frosts are coming. Squashes do not survive well in frost and cold weather. Bring them in before this time arrives and store them in your pantry. If stored in good conditions in your pantry, a butternut squash lasts for about two months!
Time to Get Cookin’!
Harvesting butternut squash is easy once you know what to look for! Ripe squashes have an entirely tan color, show signs of corking, and are difficult to get your fingernail into. Always look out for bruised or cut squashes as these are more prone to developing disease or rot.
Now that you know how to harvest butternut squash, it is time to get cookin’! Grab those squashes, prep your recipes, and get excited for an abundance of fall-flavored delicacies!