One of the last things that we get out of our vegetable garden are the winter squashes and pumpkins. We leave them on the vine in the garden until that final killing frost in October. Since that just happened a few nights ago here in Vermont, I now have some winter squashes and pumpkins in the kitchen that I need to store.
In the winter, prices for summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and summer squash increase in the grocery stores. They have to be transported in from other places, so they cost more for the stores, which they in turn pass on to the consumers. This price increase is one of the reasons that we plant winter squashes and pumpkins in our garden. It’s not difficult to do if you follow these steps!
To be able to use these a few months after we pick them, we need to store them properly. If you don’t store them properly, they’ll go bad before you have a chance to use them all. To make the winter squash last as long as possible, they should be cured after you pick them from the garden. Curing is very straightforward. You need to allow them to sit in relatively warm temperatures (above freezing) with good air circulation. To do this, I place an old window screen in the back yard on top of two pieces of firewood. I place the winter squashes on top of that. The air can circulate around the winter squash, and the temperatures are relatively warm still. Allow them to cure for 10-14 days before bringing them inside.
Be sure that the squash is in good condition. If it has bruises or blemishes on it, it won’t store well. Plan to use those up quickly and save the others for long term storage. If you try to store a bruised winter squash, it will rot, and that may damage other winter squash it’s stored with. To reduce the likelihood of damaging the squash, use scissors to cut them from the vine rather than twisting or pulling them off.
Store your winter squash and pumpkin in a cool, dry area. If you have a root cellar, that will work perfectly. If not, you can store them in an area of your home that is relatively dry and doesn’t drop below 50F to 55F. Depending on the variety of winter squash, you will be able to store them for one to six months this way. Check them regularly and use those that appear to be ripening quickly first.