Butternut Squash

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Historically, breeders focused on the needs of commercial farmers to maximize the number of squash per plant, the size of the fruit, ability to ship, and shelf life. Their goal was to maximize production. Gardeners can prioritize other features like the fruit quality, nutrient value, flavor, plant size, etc. Travis Birdsell, County Director in Ashe County and an expert on Butternut Squash, shared these suggestions for home and community gardeners interested in growing Butternut Squash:

Butternut Squash Plant

Butternut Squash Plant, image by Forest and Kim Starr, CC-BY 2.0

RECOMMENDED VARIETIES:

  • Select varieties that yield 1.5 to 2.0-pound fruit.
  • Betternut 900
  • Butterfly (smaller plant size, does well in all environments)
  • Butterscotch (very sweet)
  • Honeynut (the pinnacle butternut squash for flavor and nutrition, does well in warm climates, you can pick and eat at peak ripeness so plant Honeynut with one of the other squash varieties to prolong the season. You can eat your Honeynut squash first while harvesting and storing your other variety to eat later)
  • Metro (may be productive even in less than ideal conditions)
  • AVOID – Commercial varieties like Quantum and Polaris which each have vines that grow to 40 ft.

At maturity, one half cup of any of these varieties will provide at least 50% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A.

Butternut Seedling

Butternut Seedling, image by Louise Joly, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

HARVEST:  When immature, the fruit is a pale peach color and by 5 weeks it is a deep, rich orange. The fruit color correlates to the nutritional value – the darker the color, the more nutritious.

Fruit haves organized by age

Nutritional Value (indicated by the color of the fruit) as a function of fruit age, Image by Travis Birdsell

STORAGE:  Storing the fruit for 5 weeks after harvest maximizes the nutrient value, except for Honeynut squash which can be eaten immediately after harvest.

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash- collection, image by beautifulcatya CC-BY-NC-ND