Mary's Veggie Garden

March 24, 2010

Eating from the Garden in Winter: Winter Squash

Filed under: Gardening,Root Cellar,Squash,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:12 am

Every fall my gardens produce a variety of beautiful winter squashes in colors from pale yellow, to orange, to butterscotch, to deepest green. People look at the squash and wonder “What will you do with it? Can you possibly eat all that squash?” What most observers don’t realize is that some winter squashes store extremely well.  The bounty from last year’s garden will feed my family through April and into May.

Here is a sample of what is left as of mid-March:

Winter squashes from storage 3/18/2010

Rumbo: the big one on the right. These pale orange squashes average 15 pounds, with a range of 10-20 pounds. Last fall many of my Rumbos were green when harvested, but they have ripened up over the winter. The flesh is orange, moist and sweet with a texture similar to pumpkin.  I bake a big Rumbo, serve some as a side vegetable, turn several pounds into soup, and bake the rest in Pumpkin Bread.

Early Butternut:  on the middle-left. My favorite butternut: it does well in my shady home garden. Conversely, it does not seem to like the conditions in my Vassar Farm plot – probably too much competition.   It is a typical butternut with thick sweet orange flesh. The wrinkles in the skin of this butternut show that the squash has been loosing moisture during the winter.  I cooked and ate this squash 3/22 and it was sweet and good, but a bit dry.

Spaghetti squash: the pale yellow squash in the top left. This is the original variety of spaghetti squash, with yellow, stringy flesh. Bake, fluff out the strands with a fork, and serve with a topping of sautéed onions, peppers, stewed tomatoes, and herbs. Top with melted American cheese. Meat eaters can add a bit of cooked Italian sausage.

Sunshine squash, the bright orange squash on the bottom left, has thick, sweet flesh.  Though it stores well, I will not grow it again.  The seedlings and young plants are very susceptible to bacterial wilt, which killed my planting at Vassar Farm. Luckily there is no wilt in my home garden.

The Sunshine squash in the picture has a black spot where it is starting to go bad.  I cut out the spots and cooked the squash 3/18.  When we ate it, we discovered it had already lost its sweetness and was getting watery. My last Sunshine squash (cooked 3/22)  was still sweet and thick. I’d say 5 months is the limit on storing Sunshine squashes.

By the way, winter squash looses weight during storage, becoming drier over time.  The butternut in the picture has lost enough water that it’s skin is wrinkling. After harvest I weighted each Rumbo squash and wrote the weight on its stem.  The squash in the picture weighed 13 pounds last October, but weights 11.75 pounds now. It’s lost 1.25 pounds over the 5 months its been on the basement shelf.

All of these squashes were harvested before our first frost, washed and stored on shelves in our unheated basement.   In November a couple Rumbo and a spaghetti squash showed early signs of problems, so I used them immediately. With these squash varieties, if they make it past November, they will probably store successfully until March.

4/14 Yesterday I cooked another Rumbo squash. At harvest the squash weighed 16.5 pounds; it was down to 15. This big Rumbo was vine ripened and it was still sweet and delicious.  The Rumbo in the picture, which ripened in storage, was flat and bland tasting.



  1. Hi Mary – I just came upon your page today when I was searching for rumbo squash. I have several that are still green, and I need to cut back the vines. Four of mine have turned orange and look “ready.” This is the first time I’ve planted rumbos. I was excited to hear that you were able to keep your green ones and they ripened over the winter. How did you store them? I have probably 9 or 10 large green rumbos, and I did not want to throw them out – they are really quite big but just not orange yet! IF you can email and let me know how you stored them, I would really appreciate it! Thanks for your neat blog and photos 🙂

    Comment by Bonnie — September 25, 2010 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

    • Hello,
      Where are you? Is your garden in danger of getting frosted yet? I would recommend leaving your green squashes on the vine as long as possible, with as much foliage as possible. The Rumbos that have turned a good solid butternut color can be harvested now. A vine ripened Rumbo will stay sweet in storage however a green Rumbo, ripened in storage, will have a lot less flavor even after it turns color.

      I store my squashes on wooden shelves in the basement. I line the shelves with a couple layers of packing paper or brown paper bags. Currently the temperature in the basement is around 75 degrees but it will drop to 55 by January.

      Store the squashes upside down – leaning on their stems. If the squash sits on its bottom like a typical Jack-o-lantern it will trap moisture underneath and tend to rot on the bottom.

      Comment by marysveggiegarden — September 26, 2010 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

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