By Dylan Leipold, New Farmer Academy Intern
This time of year many of our summer squash and cucumbers are approaching the end of their lifecycle. Their glory days of lush, vibrant green growth are in the rear view mirror as they finally succumb to cucumber beetles, vine borers, wilt – the list goes on…
As the summer cucurbits rapidly lose their luster, our winter varieties are ripening to a full harvest. Now I don’t know about you, but this is my first year growing winter squash at both work and in my home garden, and I have no idea what to do with it. I know, I should have applied more forethought, but everybody gets excited about new varieties at the beginning of the season, as I did with Johnny’s Shokichi Shiro, so here I am now – storing winter squash.
Cut to me in the field – harvesting all this squash wondering to myself, “What the heck am I going to do with these things? There must be some kind of storage prep, right?”. Lucky for me, Ginnette and the New Farmer Academy mentor farmers are a wealth of knowledge, and I can’t say I was surprised to learn that there is, of course, a process to get your squash ready for its longest possible shelf life. That being said, I am about to share with you one way to prepare your winter storage squash to last well into late spring, if you don’t eat it all first!
We grew a couple different varieties out here on the farm, High Mowing’s Jack Be Little, and Brulee Butternut. The first to begin ripening up for storage were the JBL’s, with Brulee not far behind. They were grown in a Three-Sisters patch that the Old Trail students planted as a learning activity, and both varieties seem to be prolific producers.
Upon harvest, the storage procedure is quite simple: first, you need to look for a warm, sunny space. Then you harvest your squash and leave them to sit out over a span of two to three weeks. The skin will harden into more of a rind than a skin that you may be used to with squash, and will help preserve the fruits for extended storage in a cool, dark environment for your enjoyment long after the snow has covered the ground.