You've made it to harvest! The squash is ready to cut from the vine and prepare it for winter storage.
We cut Uncle David's Dakota Dessert winter squash from the vines about the last week of September or early October, when they are full-size and have a deep rich color. Changing color of the “ground spot” from green to yellow, gold or orange is another general indicator of ripeness-- what I mean by that is the part of the squash that is actually laying on the ground will turn yellow to orange. Like this!
We use a sharp serrated knife to cut the squash from the vine, as opposed to a pruner or bypass cutter. Crushing, damaging, or breaking off the stem can be a point of entry for rot to set in, causing the fruit to breakdown in storage. We cut the stem at least 2” from the fruit.
This next step is critical if you want to maximize both flavor and how well your squash stores into the winter. Let the fruit cure after harvest by keeping in a warm (70-85°F is ideal), dry location for at least 10 days up to a month. For us that means the farmhouse garage, which is attached to the house. You could also use a small greenhouse or porch, where it warms up during the day. Don't skip this step!
Toward the end of October, before it really starts cooling down in the garage, we transfer the squash to their winter storage room in the basement. We store them at about 50-55°F with 55-75% relative humidity and good air circulation. It is important not to let the temperature get below 50°F.
We closely monitor our cache for any signs of breakdown. Immediately remove any that are not storing well to avoid inducing any others from following suit.
We cook our squash from November through February, freezing any excess for use in the spring and early summer months. It is a favored family holiday treat!
Watch our YouTube video to see the entire process and learn more! Wishing you abundant harvests!
Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan
Prairie Road Organic Seed