Winter Squash

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 the Garden

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. 

Storing Winter Squash

​​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.

Curing Squash: 

  • If harvesting yourself, cure squash for 10-14 days in a warm place with good air circulation to allow water to evaporate and skin to harden
  • Skip this step when purchasing squash from your local farmer or for Acorn Squash (which should not be cured)

Storing Squash: 

  • Store squash in a cool, dry place – about 50-55°F with a humidity of 50-70 percent is ideal
  • Store on a shelf or rack, not on the floor
  • Keep cured squash dry to prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria and store them away from other ripening produce

Squash Shelf-Life:

  • Spaghetti and Acorn: 4-6 weeks
  • Delicata: 1-2 months
  • Butternut and Honeynut: 2-3 months
  • Kabocha and Hubbard: 4-6 months

In the Kitchen 

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! 

 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Servings: 4
Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy Free

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 ½ – 3 pounds)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups low-sodium broth
2 tsp curry powder
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
14-oz can of light coconut milk
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste
Pepitas and cilantro for topping 

Instructions:

  1. Peel and dice your butternut squash into about 1-inch chunks.
  2. Heat a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add in oil, shallots, and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add diced butternut squash and curry powder, and a pinch of nutmeg, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir well.
  3. Allow to cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the broth and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom.
  4. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 25 minutes or until the squash is easily smashed with a fork. Turn off the heat and stir in the coconut milk and lime juice. Use an immersion blender or transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth and creamy, working in batches if necessary.
  5. Add the soup back to the pot, stir in the maple syrup, and warm over medium-low heat. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Serve with an extra drizzle of coconut milk or yogurt, and top with pepitas and cilantro.

Find more seasonal recipes at The MT Plate.


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]!

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