How to Cure Winter Squash

Most Minnesota gardeners have already harvested their winter squash — the goal is to get them out of the fields before there is a hard freeze. But how do you cure winter squash and store it?

Squash are a great vegetable to grow, if you have the room for them. They can be planted as seeds, the vines ramble all over the place and then in fall, the gardener is rewarded with sweet delicious squash, which will keep in storage for several months.

squash curing

Butternut squash harvested and ready for curing.

When harvesting squash, cut the stem so you have 2 to 4 inches of stem still attached to the squash. If the stem breaks off, the squash should be cooked and eaten or frozen within a few days. To cure a squash, place it in a warm, sunny spot for up to two weeks. (I sometimes use a back porch for curing squash in warm weather. Given our temperatures now, I’d put squash in a sunny room in the house.) Your goal is to come away with a squash that has a firm skin and a sweet interior. Many commercial growers cure their squash in the fields. A squash that is ready for storage should have a skin that is too hard to pierce with your thumbnail.

Once cured, squash should be put in long-term storage in a cool, dark place. A cool spot in the basement may be the best option in modern houses.

Now, what to do with all that squash? Of course, it’s delicious just cooked and mashed with butter, salt and pepper. Or, try it in a beautiful soup, a sweet custard or even waffles!