After harvesting winter squash, it’s time to cure it which makes it ready for storage. Curing helps toughen up the skins to better protect the fruit and reduces the chance of early spoilage.
If you are ready to harvest, see When to Pick Winter Squash here.
Winter Squash Curing & Storage
For maximum flavor, winter squash is harvested when the fruit is mature and has a nice-thick skin forming. After picking, we “cure” the squash which both toughens up the skin for better storage while the starches start converting to sugars to make them truly delicious.
The three main species we grow are
- Cucurbita pepo (including acorn, delictata, and spaghetti squash)
- Cucurbita maxima (including buttercup, sugar hubbard squash, and super moon)
- Cucurbita moschata (including butternut, butterbaby, butterbush, and fairytale pumpin)
There is an extensive list of winter squashes and how long they last in storage here. .
How long winter squash lasts in storage depends entirely on the variety and the condition of the fruit. Generally, the smaller the squash the shorter the storage time since they tend not to have those really tough, pumpkin-like skins to insulate them.
Acorn squashes are a good example of a smaller squash that lasts just weeks in cold storage.
Butternuts tend to be bigger and have much tougher skins and may keep for months right through until spring.
Use the tips below to cure your freshly harvested squashes and get them ready for months of roasted vegetables and soups ahead.
What’s the difference between winter and summer squash? Winter squash have harder skins and store for much longer periods of time. Summer squash (zucchinis and more) have thinner, edible skins and should be consumed soon after picking.
How to Cure Winter Squash
- Sunny, dry location | 80 to 85°F (26 to 29°C)
- Two weeks | Rotate daily to gradually expose all parts to sun
In the home garden the best way to cure winter squash is pick the mature fruit from the vine and then lay them out in a dry, sunny location for a week or two.
Ideally they soak up the sun in 80 to 85°F (26 to 29°C) temperatures which will toughen up the skin and heal over any wounds, making the squash nice and ready for the longest storage possible.
When starting, pay attention to how soft the skin is by gently pressing it with your finger. After curing, it will be tougher and less pliable.
During this time the starches are also converting to sugars which significantly improves the taste.
In the sunny location, be sure to turn the fruits daily so each part has direct sun exposure.
If rain or cold is in the forecast, use the best sheltered location you have—even if it’s on a sunny windowsill in your house—for best results. Cold and damp conditions will slow curing down.
If you have room to do the entire curing process indoors, it may just take a week if it’s warm and light enough.
Once cured, the skins are nice and tough and any minor blemishes or cuts may have healed. This is the time to them into cold storage.
How to Store Winter Squash
Winter squash should be picked at peak maturity. The days to maturity on your seed packet are one clue they may be ready.
1Keep the stem attached
When picking, always keep a few inches of stem attached to the squash and use a sharp, clean knife to make the cut (no pulling or tearing).
Only store squash that is damage-free: no cuts, nicks, soft spots, mold. It should be very firm and unblemished.
3Disinfect the Skin
Wash the skin with a bleach/water solution (4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water for at least one minute) and dry thoroughly to prevent mold.
I had to start doing this one year when gross, fuzzy stuff started appearing on foods in my cold storage room.
Others may skip this step without a problem.
4Cure the squash before storage
Sit the squash in a dry, sunny spot for 10 days or keep it in a warm room for 5 days. Then put it straight into cool storage. The detailed curing tips are here.
5Store in Cool, Dry Location
- Cool, dark, dry storage: 10-15°C (50-60°F)
Ideally, you have a storage room with shelving where you can place the squashes (not touching) on newspaper-lined shelves.
Winter squash needs the same cold storage conditions as most other foods we save for the winter including low humidity, good air circulation, and temperatures staying in the range of 10-15°C (50-60°F).
6Check Every Few Weeks
Put a reminder in your phone to go visit your squash every few weeks.
Remove any that show signs of mold, fungus, or rot, and clean up after them with bleach solution.
And, most importantly, start using them. It’s time for squash spaghetti, soups, muffins, breads, and more.
The smaller and thinner-skinned winter squashes have the shortest shelf life so use those up first.
Winter Squash Storage Times
There are three main species of winter squash.
Some varieties are open-pollinated (OP). Others are hybrids (F1).
The days to maturity are listed in brackets.
Storage times are general. Check your seed packet to confirm information.
- 2 months maximum in cold storage
Smaller winter squashes including acorn squash do not store as well as larger, thicker skinned varieties. Be sure to eat them in the first month or two after harvesting.
- Festival (85 days) – F1
- Mashed Potatoes (90 days) F1
- Reno (70-75 days) F1
- Table King (105 days) OP
- Table Queen (85 days) F1
- Delicata (80-100 days) OP – also called Bohemian or Peanut squash
- Sweet Dumpling (110 days) OP
- Small Sugar Pumpkin (110 days) OP
- Spaghetti Squash (90-100) OP
- 4 to 6 months maximum in cold storage but some taste best after a shorter time
- Burgess Buttercup (115 days) OP
- First Taste (85 days) F1
- Gold Nuggett (85 days) OP
- Kurinishiki Mini Kabocha (95 days) F1
- Shokichi Green Mini Kabocha (100 days) F1
- Shokichi Red Mini Kabocha (100 days) F1
- Sweet Mama (85-95 days) F1
- Turban Squash (100 days) OP
- Uchiki Red Kuri (80 days) OP
- Queensland Blue Pumpkin (110-120 days) OP
- Sugar Hubbard Squash (110 days) OP
- Super Moon (90 days) F1
- 4 to 6 months maximum in cold storage
- Butternut (110-120 days)
- Waltham (110 days) OP
- Tiana (95 days) F1
- Early Butternut (85-90 days) F1
- Victory (88 days) F1
- Butterbaby (105-110 days) OP
- Butterbush (75-85 days) F1
- Fairytale Pumpkin (110 days) OP
- Gold Nugget (85 days) OP
Squash Seed Snacks
All winter squash seeds are edible.
- Wash seeds and remove stringy bits by rubbing with dish towel.
- Spread out on parchment-lined baking tray.
- Bake at 225°F | 107°C for 15-20 minutes.
- Season as desired.
For more fall garden ideas, be sure to grab your copy of the Fall Garden Checklist for handy reminders and helpful tips.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛