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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Harvesting Butternut Squash

Q. I enjoy reading your gardening articles in the RJ.  I liked the one about the Butternut Squash as I had planted one in early April and did not record the planting date.  I have one squash almost 10 inches long that looks as if it might be ready to harvest, while there are two other smaller ones.  I call the vine as a "Monster" as it has taken over my raised bed planter. How long should I wait before harvesting the larger squash?
Butternut squash ready to harvest

A. When to harvest really depends on what you are going to do with it. If you plan to eat it soon after you pick than just wait until the squash is a dark tan color, cut it or separated from the vine, prepare it and eat it. If you plan on keeping it in storage for a while before you eat it then I would wait until it is a dark tan and check the hardness of the skin before you harvest it. 
Butternut squash at an expo in Zimbabwe. It looks like the seed was saved because of all the different shapes and sizes

You can do this with your thumbnail. If the skin is really hard and difficult to puncture with your thumbnail than it is ready to harvest. Immature squash will have a softer skin that is easier to penetrate with your thumbnail. Also, it won't be a dark tan color. If you plan on keeping it for a while, cut it from the vine with a pruning shears leaving about two or 3 inches of vine still attached to the squash. 

Harvesting it so that the vine slips from the squash leaves openings in the squash and it will not keep as long. It will store at room temperature for a couple of months if the skin hasn't been damaged and the vine is still attached.

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