Winter squash is indigenous to North and South America, and was a valued food source long before the first Europeans ever set foot on the land. Popular varieties of winter squash include butternut, honey nut, Hubbard, acorn, spaghetti, and kabocha.
In many indigenous cultures, squash represents one of the three sisters. When planting squash with its other two sisters, corn and beans, all three crops grow and thrive. To learn more about growing a Three Sisters garden, visit Native Seeds.
Winter squash grows well in Montana, but requires a bit of space due to its giant vines. Gardeners often plant winter squash on the garden’s periphery and train the vines onto a fence or the lawn.
Start winter squash from seeds indoors in peat pots and transplant when soil temperatures reach a minimum of 60 degrees F. Plant in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Because the plants are large, they will require quite a bit of water throughout the growing season.
Winter squash tastes best when harvested ripe. Harvest squash once they reach maturity (80-140 days). Cut the fruit with a bit of stem using a sharp knife or pruners. Eat cut or bruised winter squash immediately, as it won’t keep. Undamaged winter squash can be cured and stored for later use.
Curing and storing winter squash leads to peak sweetness, flavor, and quality. Here are a few tips and tricks to enjoying the fall harvest all winter.
Loved for its sweet taste and soft texture, there are infinite ways to incorporate winter squash into your next meal. Here are a few of our favorite squash recipes to get you through the winter:
And if you are looking for a simple and flavorful soup for winter, be sure to check out our Curried Butternut Squash soup!
Tracee Hume is a Registered Dietitian and Bozeman-based Communications Coordinator for Abundant Montana. She loves making a mess in her kitchen, but doesn’t love cleaning it up. Send her your favorite recipes at [email protected]!