A Guide to Winter Squash

Stock your cellar with this easy-to-grow, versatile crop and reap its many rewards.

| November/December 2018

  • Kabocha Squash
    Green cultivars of Kabocha squash tend to be more savory than red cultivars, which have a sweeter flesh.
    Photo by Getty/bhofack2
  • winter melon squash vines
    Winter melon squash vines with leaves and flowers.
    Photo by Getty/Dole08
  • Blue banana squash
    Banana squash store well and come in a variety of colors, including pink, blue, and, of course, ye
    Photo by RareSeeds.com
  • honey boat delicata squash
    ‘Honey Boat’ delicata squash are early producers with very sweet flesh.
    Photo by RareSeeds.com
  • Turban squash
    Uniquely shaped turban squash make great décor, but are just as wonderful to eat, with a light, nutty flavor.
    Photo by RareSeeds.com
  • Sweet Dumpling
    ‘Sweet Dumpling’ are small and sweet with tender flesh.
    Photo by RareSeeds.com
  • Table queen acorn squash
    ‘Table Queen’ acorn squash.
    Photo by RareSeeds.com
  • Jumbo pink banana squash
    ‘Jumbo Pink’ banana squash
    Photo by RareSeeds.com
  • Jarrahdale pumpkin.
    ‘Jarrahdale’ pumpkin.
    Photo by RareSeeds.com
  • Carnival squash.
    ‘Carnival’ squash.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/anphotos99
  • Blue Hubbard squash
    Blue’ Hubbard squash.
    Photo by RareSeeds.com
  • Pumpkin Seeds
    Pumpkin seeds are great for roasting.
    Photo by Getty/A_M_Radul
  • Butternut Squash
    Fresh butternut squash.
    Photo by Getty/spaxiax

  • Kabocha Squash
  • winter melon squash vines
  • Blue banana squash
  • honey boat delicata squash
  • Turban squash
  • Sweet Dumpling
  • Table queen acorn squash
  • Jumbo pink banana squash
  • Jarrahdale pumpkin.
  • Carnival squash.
  • Blue Hubbard squash
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Butternut Squash

An impressively long storage life and seemingly endless uses are just a couple of reasons winter squash is a great crop to have around come cool weather. Pumpkins grab most of the attention each fall, but all types of winter squash are invaluable to those who want to grow their own food and preserve it in an easy, sustainable way. Available in a wide variety of flavors, shapes, and colors, it’s worth every homesteader’s time to try as many winter squash types as they can get their hands on. Here’s why.

Winter squash are easy to grow.

And they grow abundantly; a single butternut plant can produce more than 10 full-sized squash, depending on the cultivar and growing conditions. In tight spaces, bush types can produce plenty of food for a small family.

Just plop the seeds into a sunny spot in the soil (spacing them according to the seed packet directions), water well, and watch the squash thrive! Adding to the ease of growing winter squash is the fact that the plants’ large leaves shade the soil, which reduces weeds and helps the ground stay moist, meaning less watering on your part.

Winter squash have a long shelf life.

They can be dehydrated, frozen, or canned, but they don’t have to be preserved at all. Kept whole, most winter squash will store until spring. The trick is to cure the squash, which also sweetens its flavor, and then store it in the right location.



Wait to harvest winter squash until temperatures drop to between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night, before the first frost. Look for withered vines, dry stems, and firm skin that can’t be easily pierced with a fingernail. When ready, cut the fruit from the vine, leaving a 3- to 4-inch stem. Squash with shorter stems or blemishes won’t store well. For best results, harvest the squash on a dry day. Brush off (don’t wash) any dirt and place the squash in a warm, sunny location, such as your dry garden or a windowsill. Allow the squash to sit for about three weeks to cure, then store them in a single layer in a cool, dry location — ideally 50 to 55 degrees with 50 to 70 percent humidity. A root cellar is the traditional storage location, but a garage, or even a cool closet, will do. Almost all winter squash benefit from curing; the exception is acorn types, which decline in quality if exposed to warm temperatures after harvest.

Winter squash are versatile.

Winter squash kept the pilgrims alive, inspiring the 17th-century poem: “We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon. / If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.” But while the pilgrims may have grown tired of eating pumpkins, you surely won’t get bored with the many winter squash options available today. Not only does each type have a different flavor, but there are many ways to prepare them.






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