How to successfully harvest, cure and store squash for peak flavor and storability

How to successfully harvest, cure and store squash for peak flavor and storability

It's time! If you have Uncle David's Dakota Dessert squash-- now's the time to harvest! 

Cutting Uncle David's Dakota Dessert squash from the vines at Prairie Road Organic Seed

We planted our squash in two locations on May 23 and May 31 this year. That's our usual time-- sometime during the last week of May.

This year we cut Uncle David's Dakota Dessert winter squash from the vines on September 19 and 20th. Our usual timing is from September 20th through the end of September, when they are full-size and have a deep rich color. We decided to beat the rain and take 'em in a little early!

A couple things to watch for as indicators of ripeness-- first is a dull sheen to the outer skins. The 'greener' squash at the end of the vines have a shiner look to them. But look for the majority of the squash to have that dull sheen.  

Another thing to look for is the changing color of the “ground spot” from green to yellow, gold or orange. This 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!

Uncle David's Dakota Dessert squash ripe and ready to harvest at Prairie Road Organic Seed

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. Be careful not to knick the skins when wielding that knife!

Uncle David's Dakota Dessert squash being hauled in for storage

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.

Uncle David's Dakota Dessert squash piled in the garage for curing

You could also use a small greenhouse or porch, where it warms up during the day. Don't skip this step! And don't skimp on the curing time-- opting for a month rather than 10 days will give you WAY better flavor.

If your squash cooks up with a dry texture and kinda bland tasting-- that means it hasn't fully cured. Be patient! Your patience will be rewarded with MUCH IMPROVED quality-- both the texture and the flavor! 

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.

Setting the squash to cure at Prairie Road Organic Seed

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 family favorite side-dish; a holiday treat! We also use it in our holiday baking-- for 'pumpkin' pies and 'pumpkin' bread. Forget the pumpkin-- go for Uncle David's instead and watch the pumpkin pie disappear!

Watch our YouTube video to see the entire process and learn more! Wishing you abundant harvests!  

Our best to you,