Monday, November 5, 2012

Storing winter squash and pumpkins

You know from reading here, that I've recently bought several pumpkins and winter squash, as well as grown some sugar pie pumpkins in my garden. Winter squash and pumpkins can last several months in storage, under the right conditions. In my laundry list of what I bought at our produce stand this past week, were 4 buttercup squash, 7 sugar pie pumpkins, and only 2 acorn squash.

I only bought 2 acorn squash because, for one thing, they go on sale a few times in fall at the grocery store. But also, acorn squash have almost the shortest storage life of the winter squashes. Whereas the sugar pie pumpkins and buttercup squash will keep for several weeks longer.

Here's a brief list of common squash and their approximate storage life:

Delicata -- 4-6 weeks
Acorn -- 5-8 weeks
Butternut, turban and buttercup -- 2-3 months
Pumpkins -- 2-3 months
Hubbard -- 5-6 months

The storage life listed is from harvest to table. It may be wise to use your store-bought squash about 2-3 weeks sooner. So, your typical store-bought acorn squash will probably continue in peak condition for 3 to 5 weeks, and a sugar pie pumpkin will be best if cooked within 6 to 8 weeks of purchase.

When selecting squash, look for one free of dark spots and with the stem still on. The one exception to having the stem intact is the hubbard squash. Hubbards actually keep better without their stems.

If possible, store at about 50 degrees F (such as in a cool basement, an unheated entrance such as a screened in porch, or a spare room with the heat turned off or vent closed). Wherever you store them, keep squash and pumpkin off of concrete floors. 

The humidity is generally too high in both refrigerators and traditional cellars for storing pumpkins and squash. Although, once a squash or pumpkin is cut, it should be kept in the fridge, for up to 3 or 4 days.

Do not wash squash or pumpkins before storage. Washing will shorten the storage life significantly.

Don't store near apples or pears. The ethylene gas produced by these fruits will hasten the end of storage life in squash and pumpkins.

If you can't use the squash and you think it's nearing the end of its storage life, cut it into chunks, steam it and freeze to use later.

12 comments:

  1. This is interesting. I never really knew about the different storage times for squash.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      I don't know if you read the Little House books, but I think that Ma grew Hubbard squash. The skin on hubbard is so hard that old-timers would take an ax to it, to hack off a piece. And it was this hard and thick skin/rind that would keep the hubbards for 6 months or more. Some folks say their hubbards will last all the way into summer.

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  2. Lili
    A timely post! I currently have a large basket of apples on one side and another large basket of sugar pir pumpkins, butternut, red Kuri squash on the other side of my main entry, unheated "vestibule" to my home. It's a free refrigerator at the moment!

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    1. Hi Carol,
      So nice to have that free "fridge" :) I've used our garage for produce storage in the past. But we've had a rodent problem in the garage in past years, so that's no longer an option. My other cool place is the spare bedroom. It's the spare one because no one really wants the super cold room. So it's great for squash.

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  3. Thank you!! I am newer to eating squashes and never really knew how long they would keep this was very helpful.

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    1. Hi Lois,
      I'm glad to help. You had some photos of squash and your pumpkin.They were part of your fall decor. Have you cooked them up yet?

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  4. I didn't realize you shouldn't store squash near apples ... we have a lot of both sitting in our garage right now so that's good knowledge to have!

    We like to roast several squashes at once and then portion them out in storage containers and freeze them for future use. We discovered delicata squash last year and it's my new favorite. :)

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    1. Hi Kris,
      Isn't delicata wonderful? Someone gave one to me a couple of years ago, and I thought it was a gourd, so I just left it on the counter. Then one day she asked if I was ever going to cook it. To say I felt a little stupid probably puts it about right. I cooked a squash called a carnival squash about a week ago, for the first time. It was quite good as well.

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  5. I don't have anywhere to really store pumpkins that will stay that cool. I usually give up and resort to cooking and freezing the pulp.

    What's your favorite?

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    1. HI Shara,
      well that works,too. And in about a month, any pumpkins that I haven't cooked to eat yet, will just get cooked, pureed and frozen. My favorite is the butternut squash because it has that drier texture, almost like a sweet potato. I use butternut in recipes that call for sweet potatoes and no one can tell the difference.

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  6. Wow, we don't have so many names for squash over here. You can buy butternut squash or orange pumpkins, or sometimes other coloured smaller squash but they aren't sold with those names.

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    1. Hi Sarah,
      when we went to the pumpkin farms in October we saw so many different varieties of squash and pumpkins. The strangest of the squashes was Yugoslavian Finger Fruit. Just the name itself suggests something odd, doesn't it?

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