Why You Should Be Growing Butternut Squash!
If you really enjoy chowing down on winter squash – then, growing butternut squash is a brainy choice.
The orange innards are buttery smooth – and have a nutty sweetness that is irresistible.
And – guess what? That is why this squash is called “butternut.”
Where’d This Squash Come From?
A common ordinary guy, named Charles Leggett, concocted this breed of squash back in the 1940s. He was a city boy that knew next to nothing about farming – and he most definitely was not a formally trained and certified “plant breeder.”
He moved out of the city and bought a chunk of land in the country – because, his father’s health necessitated relocation to a quieter, healthier environment.
Charles was on a quest to develop a tasty squash that was big enough for a family. One thing led to another – and, in a short period of time – the butternut squash was conceived.
He took his newly invented squash over to the Waltham Field Station of the University of Massachusetts – and lo and behold – after they spent some time jumping up and down for joy – he ended up with the name Waltham attached to his unique find! His name wasn’t used to describe the squash because, he was not part of an “official” group of formally designated plant breeders. Ain’t that a shame?
Is Butternut Squash Healthy?
Well – in a “butter” nutshell (pardon my attempt at “pun humor”…) – this shapely winter squash is jam-packed with all the healthy vitamins and minerals that one would associate with garden squash veggies.
- A (mostly in the form of beta-Carotene)
- B1 (Thiamine)
- B2 (Riboflavin)
- B3 (Niacin)
- B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- B6 (Pyridoxine)
- B9 (Folate)
- C (Ascorbic Acid)
I could list a bunch more vitamins and minerals – but, you get the picture! This is one darn healthy winter squash! And, this butternut squash has a much higher Vitamin A content than the rest of its family!
Butternut squash has a tough outer skin – and, the raw flesh is also very firm.
After chopping off the top and bottom – to make a stable platform for it to sit, I cut it in half – width-wise – where it begins to narrow. Next, I use an OXO potato peeler to remove the skin. The underside of the skin is green – so, make sure there are no green areas left after peeling – green places can get a bit bitter.
Next, I cut it in half lengthwise – and, remove the pulp and seeds located in the lower, fatter section. With such a hard skin, just cutting it in half can be a bit of a chore – I, just stab it with my long, sharply pointed TUO carving knife – lay the knife blade in the cut – and rap the knife with a wooden club or rubber mallet. It takes all the work out of splitting it in two.
NOTE: I don’t throw away the seeds. After separating them from the pulp and drying them, I coat them with olive oil mixed with garlic salt, put them on a flat pan – and roast them in a 275 degree oven for 15 or 20 minutes. Nothing better for a snack!
Finally, I chop the squash up into small cubes – about a half inch or so in size.
The cubes can be roasted, baked, or sautéed. Many folks mash them up to make squash soup or a squash casserole. You can even use the puréed squash to make bread, muffins, or pies.
My personal favorite is to roast butternut squash cubes – coated with some olive oil saturated with garlic salt. It makes a terrific side dish! It takes about 30 to 40 minutes in a pre-heated 325 degree oven!
Some of my fellow gardeners prefer to add some brown sugar and cinnamon – along with a few other ingredients – and turn it into an amazing pie that is reminiscent of – and, has a lot more flavor than – those famous Southern sweet potato pies.
The Best Butternut Squash Sources
I have two – count them – two – super avenues to get my butternut squash seeds – Burpee and Stonysoil Seed Company. Both of them offer high-yield, superior germination rates – designed to produce the “best of the best.”
You can’t go wrong with either of these seed suppliers when ordering seeds for growing butternut squash.
Plant Them Thar Seeds!
I normally plant all squash seeds directly into the ground – in a well drained area that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sunshine per day. Plants in the squash family are especially sensitive to transplanting – that’s why I forgo in-house germination, hardening off, and transplanting – and send the seeds straight into the dirt.
Wait until you are completely certain that the spring frosts will not take a bite out of your plants unexpectedly.
NOTE: Pick a spot that hasn’t seen any squash plants growing for a few years. See crop rotation for further info.
Actually, since I want to harvest in the early fall, I usually hold off planting them until the end of June – or early July – so that they are ripe and hard in mid to late September at the earliest.
Many home gardeners just allow the squash to crawl along the ground – but, I like to trellis them – using a tomato cage for each plant.
After tilling the soil to a depth of 6 inches minimum – with my trusty electric or gas tiller – I mix up a big batch of Jim’s 50/50 soil mixture – which amounts to 5 gallon buckets of 50% soil from the garden and 50% Miracle-Gro potting mix (or garden soil) – with a couple tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer thrown in for good measure.
Then, I dump a full 5 gallon bucket’s worth of the soil mixture to make the first small hill at the beginning of the row – placing 3 or 4 butternut squash seeds in it – covered by an inch of the soil mixture. Finally, I anchor a tomato cage over the mound.
Every 3 feet along the row, I do the same thing – keeping each hump of dirt at least 3 feet from the others – and keeping the rows 3 feet apart – minimum.
Water well – at least an inch of water per week – and 85 days later – give or take a few days – you’ll have some butternut squash you can be proud of! Adding soaker hoses will direct the water to the base of the plant and help keep the leaves dry – to avoid any possibilities of fungus taking hold of the plant.
In a few weeks after planting the seeds, the seedlings will start poking through the dirt. Once they have their second set of leaves, pick the strongest of the group in each hill and pinch out the others.
Throw some mulch down around and between the plants – and between the rows. This will minimize weeds invading the area and robbing the plants of water and nutrients. It will also help retain soil moisture. I like to use chopped up leaves or wood chips – along with newspaper and cardboard – to protect and safeguard my veggie plants.
Just about all squash-type plants have a shallow root system – and, if the soil near the surface dries out too quickly, the plants will get very, very thirsty – which is all the more reason to use mulch to guard them against drought.
Add some catnip and yellow marigolds – here and there – around the butternut squash plants. They’ll go a long way in attracting those bad bugs away from your prize squash. A few pole beans can help, too – by adding valuable nitrogen back into the soil.
Many gardeners employ the Three Sisters technique – which incorporates corn, pole beans, and squash into individual island groups. These plants complement each other in many ways. Try it – you might like it!
You’ll know that butternut squash is ripe when their attachment to the vine starts to turn brown and die. Also, the skin will be so hard that you can’t dent it easily with your nails.
I get out my sharp Hori Hori knife or Gonicc ratchet pruning garden shears – and cut the stem several inches above the squash. Then, I leave the butternut squash out in the sun for a week or two until the skin hardens further. Afterwards, if I’ll keep them in a cool, dry area – until I’m ready to turn them into a meal. They’ll stay fresh for as long as 3 months!
Squash Pests And Diseases
Squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and vine borers are the main enemies of butternut squash. Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer is a good all-around insecticide solution – if your companion plants aren’t doing their job well enough.
Butternut squash is subject to the same diseases as any other squash – wilt and mildew (powdery and downy). A top rated fungicide such as Daconil or Physan 20 will nip these issues in the bud if they’re caught in the early stages.
If the plant is too far gone, pull the whole thing – roots and all – out of the garden – bag it – and put it out for trash pickup. The further away from the garden the infected plant is – the better!
A Poem To Ponder…
They say that a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Our mind is a garden.
Our thoughts are seeds.
We must be careful how we cultivate them.
‘Cause, we want them to become pretty flowers or tasty veggies – but, for God’s sake – we do not want ugly WEEDS!
How do you like your butternut squash? Comment below or email me – tell me all about it!