from Ready Nutrition:
One of my favorite things about fall is the abundance of winter squashes and all the delicious recipes one can make with them. Unlike their summer cousins, zucchini and yellow crookneck, winter squashes can be stored for two to three months if handled and kept properly without significant loss to quality. They lend themselves to cold weather dishes beautifully, too, whether roasted, sautéed, cubed and added to soups and stews, or mashed.
The most readily available squash in grocery stores are sugar pumpkins, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti varieties, but don’t limit yourself to the ones that are familiar- experiment with different varieties and have fun. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with a nice winter squash. Many of the lesser known varieties can be found at farmers’ markets.
Harvesting and Storing Winter Squash
In order to store them for months, be sure to select the ones that are blemish or bruise free. They should also have an intact peduncle (stem) of about 1-inch for squash and 3 to 4 inches for sugar pumpkins. If any are missing their peduncle, make sure to use them quickly. The concave area at the top of the squash where the stem used to be makes them susceptible to molds and fungus.
If you’re harvesting from your own garden, don’t handle or harvest the squash while they’re wet and don’t let the harvested fruit get wet. Cut the fruit from the vine (allowing appropriate stem length on the fruit) using kitchen or pruning shears, brush off any blossom still clinging to the end and any dirt chunks that might be stuck to them. Space them far enough apart that each fruit gets adequate air flow around it. The best temperature for curing is warm days between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you think nighttime temperatures are going to dip below 40 degrees or so, move your squash indoors to finish curing. Frost can sweeten the fruit, but it can also dramatically reduce storage life.
Curing the squash gets rid of excess water which creates several benefits:
- During the curing process, the skin hardens and creates a protective layer
- It concentrates the sugars in the fruit making it sweeter
- It reduces the chances of rot
A harder skin also helps to slow moisture loss (respiration) during storage which helps preserve the quality of the fruit from both an aesthetic and nutritional perspective.
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