It’s time for us to talk about winter squash! There’s a bit of nuance that goes into them, so we’ll talk about how we treat them and ensure long storage times over the winter!
We ended up harvesting our winter squash prior to first frost this year. We “usually” wait until the first frost as it makes finding them among the foliage much less work. But, with our first frost getting pushed further and further out, it’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll experience both freezing temperatures and first frost simultaneously. We definitely don’t want our squash to freeze, so here we are!
Winter squash need to experience what is called a “cure” prior to long term storage. This is where we allow our squash to sit under sunlight for about a week. This helps harden the outer shell of the squash, dry out that shell and otherwise prepare it for long term storage.
Many years, we do the cure outdoors on a table if weather conditions permit. In general, you want days and nights that are 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit or above for this. Since that’s not in the cards for us this year with freezing temperatures predicted for later this week, we’re opting to do our cure indoors. We’ve located our squash near a large window to get some ambient sunlight, plus we’re also using our grow lights to simulate direct sun. We’ll let them sit like this for a minimum of 7-10 days, prior to storing them.
For long term storage, ideally, you’d have a relatively cool space (mid-50’s) to store your squash after the cure. Like most people these days, we don’t have a root cellar or general space that we keep that cool. We’ve been storing our winter squash at room temperature for years now. While you might get a little bit of shortened storage life, you still get quite a few months of quality storage.
Also, don’t wash your squash! The microbes on the shell are important to maintain the squash’s natural protections. If you need to clean them, just wipe them off with a dry towel. Lastly, if you grow acorn squash, it’s important to know that these do not require a cure! Just go ahead and put any acorns into storage immediately as a cure will cause them to prematurely degrade.