The Q&A Archives: when to harvest

Question: I'am growing butter cup squash and want to know when to harvest it.

Answer: Buttercup and all other winter squashes should stay on their vines until fall. The best time for harvesting is before the first frost, which is sometimes difficult to predict, depending on where you live. A few weeks before you expect frost, cut the buttercup from the vine. It's important to cut the stem using a sharp tool, even if it's tempting to snap the squash off the vine. The stem end of the squash is less likely to rot if you leave an inch-long section of stem on the squash rather than breaking it off.

After harvesting your squash, you can help them last longer by curing the squash in the sun for a few weeks. It toughens the skins, which prolongs their life into the winter months when garden produce is a welcome addition to the dinner table. If, however, cold weather arrives while your squash is still outside, be sure to bring all the winter squash indoors; keep them in a room around 70 degrees before sending them down to a cooler basement (50 degrees) or dry cellar with good ventilation for long-term storage.

Winter squash may look tough, but they bruise easily. Since the bruises are areas more likely to mold during storage, always handle squash carefully to ensure the best storage life. It's best to find shelf space where you can store the squash in a single layer, rather than storing in wooden boxes overflowing with squash. It's much easier to inspect them every few weeks, and if one squash starts to develop any mold, it's less likely to spread to neighboring squashes.

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