Winter Squash for Winter Sales

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Growers with CSAs, sales to schools and institutions, or restaurant customers should consider storing and marketing winter squash. Winter squash include a wide range of types including butternuts and neck pumpkins, acorns, spaghetti squash, buttercup and kabocha types, delicata and dumpling types, hubbards, cheese pumpkins, and others. Many of these have the ability to be stored for long periods, especially butternuts, buttercups, and spaghetti types. New England has a tradition of eating large quantities winter squash; however, the further south you get, the less they are eaten. This may require customer education in order to market successfully. For example, Butternut squash is great in soups, pastries, and casseroles and spaghetti squash is a fine low calorie, low carb, pasta substitute.

Having winter squash for winter sales requires proper handling and storage. Successful storage starts with harvesting disease free and undamaged fruit. Remove squash from the field before they have chilling injury – do not allow fruits to be exposed to extended periods below 50°F. Handle carefully to eliminate bruising or damage to fruit and remove stems from squash like butternuts that can poke holes in nearby fruit. Store winter squash in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area at a temperature around 60°F. A ventilated storage shed with supplemental heat works well. Basements are ideal. Empty greenhouses can be used if fans are run to keep the heat down in the day and heat is run to keep the temperature above 50°F (a significant cost). A cold room/box kept at 55° F will also work. Under these conditions, the longer keeping winter squash types can be kept in saleable condition through late winter, into spring.