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Harvesting and Storing Winter Squash and Curing Gourds

Posted by pehling | October 18, 2013

Some winter varieties develop a hard shell. Table Queen, Hubbard and Turbans are in this class. On the other hand, Marblehead and Golden Delicious have skins that remain soft. A development of yellow in the ground color and a sparkling, glossy sheen to the skin indicates approaching maturity for squash.

When mature, cut them from the vine, leaving a short length of stem on the fruits.

Winter squashes and pumpkins that are mature can be cured and stored for months. They cure best at about 80 F with the humidity 80 to 85%. Under these conditions, small wounds callous over and the skins harden. After 10 to 14 days, they can be stored for the winter. They can also be left in the garden for 2 weeks to toughen the skin. If freezing weather arrives early, they should be brought indoors for curing. Place squash on top of thick pads of newspapers in a cool (around 50 deg. F), dry, well-ventilated location.

Squashes in storage keep best where circulation is good, the air cool and dry, about 40 to 50 F. The higher the temperature the greater will be the weight loss due to respiration and water loss. At about 45 F., according to research information reported from Cornell University, there is a very slow conversion of starch to sugar and shrinkage is less than 3% a month. Other authorities claim least spoilage at 55 F.

Check for rot on a regular basis and use within three to six months.

Spaghetti Squash Recipe

Steam whole squash in pan containing one inch of water with foil covering pan in oven at 350 F. When able to press and have squash indent (about 15 minutes), turn over and cook a total of 30 minutes. Remove from oven and scoop out what appears to be spaghetti from center of cut open squash. To this, add three tablespoons butter, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese and bacon bits. Salt and pepper to taste. Put back in shells and in oven until heated through.

–From Ortho Book “All About Vegetables”, pg. 67

Harvesting and Curing Gourds

Non-edible-ornamental types (small, hard, thick fleshed) gourds – are ready to harvest when shells harden. Pick with stem attached, wash with soapy water and a little household disinfectant. Dry. Cure.

Store for 10 days after harvest at 80 with 80% humidity – at 70 it takes 3 weeks. Keep surfaces dry, avoid bruising (bruises cause discoloration and provide spots where rot-causing organisms can get started.

After 10 days, store at 50 – 60 – single layers, good air circulation. Continue process for several weeks. When thoroughly dry, coat with wax, lacquer or shellac. When left untreated, thick-fleshed gourds begin to fade after four months.

Thin-shelled or hard-shelled varieties are used for making drinking cups, kitchen utensils, salt shakers, bird houses, and ornaments.

Harvest and cure the same as for the thick-fleshed types. Hardening process continues for 6 months or longer. The dish cloth gourd or vegetable sponge is cooked like squash in china and Japan but is seldom used for food in the United States The fibrous material inside is dried and used as a bath sponge. Fruits are cylindrical, up to 2 feet long.

Suggested reading: EB 0422 Home Gardens $2.50

revised 11/07 dp

Washington State University