Knowing How And When To Pick Butternut Squash To Have Rich Harvest

It’s been a while since I wrote about how to grow zucchini on a trellis. Since then, I have grown several kinds and varieties of squashes, but none have delighted me more than butternut squash. It is one great vegetable, which requires care and monitoring, and if you wish to improve your results, read this article.

I will show you when to pick butternut squash, as well as which time is right for doing so.


What Is A Butternut Squash Anyway?

What is butternut squashes

As you can guess, butternut squash is a vegetable from the family of squashes (of course). It is one of the many varieties which are grown worldwide, and here are some of the facts about this squash.

  • This variety was made in 1950’s, in the USA
  • In the Australia and New Zealand, it is called gramma or butternut pumpkin
  • Grows on a vine
  • Its taste is similar to pumpkin, with more butter-ish texture
  • Technically, it is a fruit
  • Excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, fibers, manganese, potassium and other nutrients
  • Fantastic when used in soups, roasted or pureed

What Will Be Required For Harvesting?

Required for harveating butternut squashes

As with all squashes, butternut variety has soft and juicy stems, so there is no need for excessive force when harvested. However, this doesn’t mean that you can go without the tools.

In case that you have at least one more plant in your garden, there are high chances that you already possess one pair of gardening shears. Those regular, which are used to cut roses will do the trick, as long as they are sharp enough. On the other hand, if you are growing them in the city, on a roof, for example, any scissors or knife can be used. The only thing which matters is that the tools are sharp.

Also, you will need some form of container, to carry squashes from the garden to wherever you are storing them. I recommend wheelbarrow since they can be heavy and will be massive. Simply put, this makes things easier.

When To Harvest Butternut Squashes?

When to harvest butternut squashes

The answer to this question can be given quite accurately, in fact. Usually, they will need 80 to 100 days to ripe and be ready for harvest. Of course, there are factors which can accelerate or slow down the process.

For example, lower amounts of water will shorten the time, so if the summer was scorching, you can expect them to be ripe in under 80 days. On the other hand, if the weather was cold, it will prolong the cycle, so keep an eye out for this as well.

Regarding the day, my general rule of thumb is to harvest early in the morning. However, with squashes, it is not that simple. First of all, water them one or two days before planned harvest. This will make stems crispy and more accessible to cut. Also, they will gather a little bit more of water before storing.

How To Know If They Are Ready For Harvesting?

How to know ready for harvesting butternut squashes

There are several ways to determine whether butternut squashes can be picked. I will list some of them so that you won’t rely just on the timetable.

The Stem

One of the most certain ways to tell whether squash is ready to be picked is the color of the stem. While the fruit is still growing, the stem will be green and crispy. As the time passes, and harvest approaches, it will slowly turn yellow and then brown. This is because of plant’s natural cycle since it doesn’t feed the squash anymore.

The Sound

Since squashes are relatives to watermelons, the same principle for determining if it is ripe can be used. As I said in my article about growing watermelons in a container, knock a few times on the surface of the squash. If it sounds hollow (the sound should be deep, BUM, BUM, BUM) it is ready for harvest. On the other hand, if it sounds shallow (bim, bim, bim), leave it a bit more. I know that it looks ridiculous, trying to explain sound with written words, but you got the picture, I hope.

The Shell

Opposing to watermelons, which have hard outer shells, butternut squashes are soft to touch when they are younger. As the time passes, their outer shell gets harder, so I couldn’t dent it with the fingernail. This is one of the most assuring signs that harvesting time is near. If it happens that you scratch the surface, and it is not ripe yet, don’t worry, it shouldn’t damage the fruit.

The Weight

As the time passes, the squash gathers more and more water and increases in weight. This is also a good sign of its ripening. Take it to your hand. If it feels weightier than it looks, it is either ripe or very close to becoming ready for harvest. However, this method is best used later, when you gain some experience and “the feel”.

The Color

Have you ever picked an apple? How did you know that it is ripe? By the color, of course! The same principle can be used here. To determine whether butternut squash is ready, look at the color and the shade carefully. In the beginning, it is green then turns yellow, and at the end, the shade will be approximately the color as the ripe apricot. Also, take a look at the surface. It should be matte, without reflection. In case that it is glossy, leave it a bit more, but in general, the time is near.

The Float

This solution should be used as the last resort. It is not right pointer if the squash is ripe, but will instead show if there are any damaged parts inside. Take a large bucket, and fill it with water. Now, take the squash and put it inside. In case that it floats, it probably has some bad parts. Perfectly healthy fruit will drop to the bottom like the stone. This approach can be used for eggs also.

So, How To Harvest Butternut Squashes?

Harvest butternut squashes

The day when I decided to harvest my butternut squashes was perfect. Mild weather, neither too soft, nor too cold. The vines were withered, so I was sure that they are ripe. With pruning shears in hand, I headed toward the garden.

Now, I took the squash and cut the vine about an inch above the fruit. I have cleaned it by hand from dirt and soil and started selecting. Those fruits which are dented, hit or damaged were put on one pile. These will be used first since damage will spread in time. Others should be stored in cold and dark place.

The most often storage for squashes is the basement. The temperature should be around 50°F, and ideal humidity should be about 50-75%. Set crates or spread paper on the ground. Since the fruits are abundant, they will need quite space. Spread them so that they don’t touch. Take a look at them once in every few weeks, and see if there are any damaged ones. As similar to onions, those need to be used first.

What For I Can Use Butternut Squashes?

As I said at the beginning, there are several ways in which these squashes can be consumed.

They have beautiful taste, and you can mash them, bake or fry, the choices are limitless. Also, their seeds can be roasted and eaten as a snack. Those are very healthy as well. 

My favorite way of preparing the butternut squash is to wash it thoroughly, cut in half by length, and remove the seeds.

Put a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and put the cut side downward. After about 45 minutes, it should be done.

Baked butternut squashes


This concludes my guide. I hope that you know when to pick butternut squash, as well as how to do it without too much effort. As you can see, they are generous vegetables, and will also improve your overall skill as a gardener.
In case that you have any thoughts, advice or opinions on this matter, feel free to use the comment section below.

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