butternut squash are ripe ... when?

daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)May 27, 2012

First time growing butternut squash, and they're coming in gangbusters. I've got one that's a foot long - light green with thin white stripes. My question is, when are they ready to harvest? I see posts saying "after the first frost" which, for central Texas, might be in a few years at this rate. Others say, when tan, or when the stem starts to shrivel, or at the end of the season when the plants start to die (could be a long time ...). Suggestions?

I have them in my garden sort of accidentally, actually. I saw some healthy cucurbits sprouting in my compost pile and, on a lark, transplanted them into my garden. Kaboom! They've spread over a few square yards. Cuke? Zukes? Pumpkins? It wasn't until a month ago that I identified these as butternut squashes.

A few years ago I tried to grow squash, but was put firmly in my place by squash vine borers. No squash. This time, I wrapped about a foot of the main stems in aluminum foil, covered them with thin fabric, and then dumped a load of compost on top of that. FWIW, I did a bit of dusting with carbaryl, but only around those main stems near where they go in the ground, and not heavily. Keeping my fingers crossed. Compared to other parts of the country where I've lived, Texas is truly cursed by these vine borers.

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I haven't ever grown them.
They usually show up in stores in the fall. They are a cream color. I wouldn't pick them until they show that color.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 10:20AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Thanks. I guess my question is whether these squash are genetically programmed to get ripe and turn tan in color in the fall (as in, when the weather turns cool and the plants die) or a certain number of days after they appear on the plant. Summer squash are certainly the latter.

Gardening life would be pretty different if tomatoes waited until the fall to get ripe.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 10:45AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

If you plant tomatoes in July , they will be ripe in Fall. The winter squashes are not as vulnerable to squash bore. I plant my other squash early before that cursed moth develops. I am having a gang buster squash year.I also pick varieties that are resistant to the squash bore.

It is my first year growing them too. A friend of mine gave me a squash before frost but definitely in the fall. I am going to sneak one in a bit as an experiment. Many winter squashes can be eaten as summer squash, like the patty pan squash. Right now I am getting pretty sick of squash. That is all I have. We have eaten squash the last 4 dinners. I think I saw some eggplant out there for tonight. Never get sick of tomatoes. We have been eating them every night also.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 1:26PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Well, I think I may have answered my own question. Said butternut squash that was light green with thin white stripes a week or two ago is now off-white with virtually no stripes. I'm guessing it will be store-bought butternut beige in a few more weeks. The smaller ones are still greenish with white stripes.

So I think the answer is that they ripen on their own schedule, just like summer squash, and don't need any cooling of the weather to do so.

I guess I should post some gardening advice about tomatoes ripening in May. That should freak out posters in Minnesota who are telling me that butternut squash is "ripe at first frost".

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 8:22PM
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Do not harvest early before they are without any green or you will not like the way they might taste.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 5:29PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

The question wasn't whether to pick them when they aren't ripe, but how to determine when they are ripe. As I said, the green stripes are long gone. They are now beige.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 5:45PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

OK, here's the answer. I harvested my large butternut squash today. The one I was asking about when to harvest. It was ... fabulous. Thin but rim rind, perfectly uniform orange color inside. Seeds were very small, and quite edible. Delicious.

The steps to a ripe butternut go thusly ...

(1) white rind with bright green stripes
(2) green stripes fade
(3) squash becomes uniformly white or off-white
(4) squash becomes distinctly tan
Pick it!

In 8b in April-June, each of these steps are separated by a few weeks. DO NOT wait until the first frost!!! (That's the advice you'll find in some discussions ...)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 9:17PM
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