When to Pick Butternut Squash

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Butternut Squash Vines

This spring my husband added some soil from one of our compost bins to our front beds, and before long we had butternut squash vines coming up in the front yard. Nice!

Butternut Squash - Not Ripe Yet

Those plump butternut squash have been tempting my taste buds every time I walk past them, but I’m not picking them just yet because I know if I pick them too soon they won’t keep well.

So, how do you know when butternut squash is ready to be picked?

Pick them when …

  • the skins are tan, with no green lines showing
  • the stems are brown, and the vines have died back

Many gardeners also recommend waiting until after the first frost to harvest any winter squash.

To Pick Your Butternut Squash …

Be sure to leave two to three inches of the stem intact. If you cut them shorter, they’ll rot quickly. Inspect your squash carefully, and place any with damaged skins or stems in a pile to be used right away. Cure the rest by sticking them in a warm spot with good air circulation for a couple weeks. Turn them regularly to ensure even curing. This will allow the squash to shed some of their water weight and to develop tougher skins, so they store well.

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    1. I’d let them keep growing. If they’re still green and white, they aren’t ready. That may get really big, but that’s okay. Unlike cucumbers and zucchini which get bitter when you let them get big, butternut squash doesn’t do that. Also, if you pick them before they’re ripe, they won’t keep well.

    1. Yep, it freezes beautifully, you need to roast it first though. I like to roast it. Then, puree it in the food processor/blender to make puree. It can be used in any recipe that calls for pumpkin puree. I also freeze roasted chunks for throwing in chili and soups.

      1. I like to wash them good then cut in pieces to cook with skin on an then the blender or vitamix with pepper and butter. ?

  2. i have a butternut squash growing in my compost and it doing great. why did i get only one female flower on it ?

    1. Hi Linda, Usually the male flowers open first, but not always. You may still get some males (and more females) yet. I have a butternut squash growing in my compost too, and it’s just starting to produce.

  3. When you say, “stick them in a warm spot”, can you give an example? For instance, should I put them in a warm sunny spot outside somewhere after I have picked them? Thanks.

    1. A covered spot outdoors would work well — a porch, carport, something along those lines. Just somewhere that will protect them from the weather, but expose them to warm temperatures and good air circulation.

  4. Thanks for this info! Mine grew right out of our oldest compost soil in our horse pasture. It’s huge! There are 15 squash now, with another 20-25 flowers. I guess the bees did their work. I am having trouble with the leaves, but probably because I water them with the hose when I fill the horse buckets up. I don’t have irrigation. Will this be a problem for the ripening and growing, overall?

  5. My husband picked some butternut squash that are still light yellow with short, green lines near the stem. Is there a way they will continue to ripen after they are picked?

    1. Hi Corky,

      They’ll still ripen, but they probably won’t be the best for long-term storage. If you aren’t planning to use them in the next few weeks, I’d recommend roasting and pureeing them. Frozen puree keeps indefinitely. Enjoy your squash 🙂

  6. I had a bunch of questions, but after reading all of the above questions and answers, I can honestly say…Perfect suggestions/answers to all the questions asked by others, but the same questions I had.. Thanks Erin!

  7. I have harvested 10 butternut squash in the last couple of weeks and have them in the garage. The others’ stems are just not turning brown – it’s getting cold here in Iowa, and I’m not sure if they will ever get brown, and if not, will they still be good? Should I go ahead and harvest them or leave them outside and cover them every night? Thanks, Lana

    1. Hi Lana,

      I’d recommend leaving them on the vine until after your first frost (there’s no need to protect them, it’ll kill the vines, but it won’t harm the squash). If the stems aren’t brown by then, (and they probably won’t be), go ahead and pick them anyway, and be sure to use those first. They won’t store well, but assuming they’re well-developed, there’s no reason you can’t cook them up, and use them within a few weeks. If you want to use them later this winter, just roast them and freeze them. I always have lots of butternut squash puree in my freezer.

  8. Help!!! I’m growing butternut squash for the first time and know absolutely nothing at all from cooking it to picking it. I have about 30 growing any advice here would be greatly appreciated!!!!!

    1. Hi Cindy,

      You’ll find everything I’ve written about butternut squash here: http://www.myfrugalhome.com/butternut-squash/

      You can also puree it, just like you would a pumpkin. The two are interchangeable in recipes, so you can use butternut squash puree in any recipe that calls for pumpkin recipe — even pie. If you decide to make a bunch of puree, be sure to freeze your extras. It isn’t safe to can winter squash.

      1. You say it isn’t safe to “can” winter squash. Sure it is! I’ve been doing it for years. But it has to be pressure canned and it has to be in CHUNK form only (about 3/4″ cubes). Also it’s quite good that way. I used to make my pugs food and I always put my canned squash in it. The problem was, they always got shorted because I would eat so much of the squash right out of the jar.

        1. Hi Duane,

          It used to be considered safe to pressure can pumpkin and other winter squash, but that’s actually changed in recent years. The National Center for Home Food Preservation now says freezing is the only safe way for the home canner to preserve winter squash. This is due to concerns about the low acidity. Interestingly, they’ve also decided that you now have to add acid to all tomato products, whether you’re boiling water canning them or pressure canning them. A lot of the modern veggie varieties just aren’t as acidic as they used to be, which is the cause for some of these changes to canning methods that have worked for years and years.

  9. My butternut plant also grew out of my compost pile. July 15 & some are a good size but all are green. They wd be huge if I didn’t pick until 1st frost ( zone 7 Richmond Va). Can I pick them as soon as they turn brown?

    1. I would wait. It isn’t like summer squash that keeps growing and growing. Butternut squash will sort of hit its max size and then hold there. Waiting until fall to pick is really important. They need that extra time to develop thick skins, so they store well.

  10. Can I pick a butternut squash to eat right now, before the first frost, or would it not be any good? I have about 30 in the garden right now and would like to store some and eat some. Also, i am in Maeyland and it is about 90 degrees here. We are still months away from first frost. Will that hurt the butternut squash?

    1. Great questions. If you pick some butternut squash now, you’ll probably find that they don’t taste very good yet. They sweeten/develop their flavor as they ripen. I grew up in No. Va., so I know your weather well. The heat and humidity won’t hurt your squash a bit. It’s perfectly fine to leave them in the garden through the fall (even after the vines start to die back). If you want to use some and store some, you’d probably be okay to start picking squash in October. Butternut squash is kind of weird in that it looks ready way before it is.

  11. My husband and I are going round and round about when to harvest our butternut squash. All I keep reading says to wait it the first frost and the vines die back. We live in the Florida Panhandle We have a long growing season and our frost may not come until December. Our vines have already pretty much died back. The squash are tan with only the slightest of green lines at the top. Should we lol leave them on the vine?

  12. Hi, I have already picked several of our butternuts that got big, but are still a cream color. Is it okay to go ahead and roast them like this or do they need to ripen and turn darker? From now on I will be careful to leave them on the vine longer.

  13. My butternut squash vines/leaves have a decent amount of powdery mildew, which seems to be killing them off somewhat. Should I still leave them on the vines? Will they get to where they need to be? ANything I can do? thanks!

    1. Hi Jenny,

      Powdery mildew looks terrible, but it won’t kill the plant, so I’d leave your butternut squash until the first frost. Powdery mildew overwinters in the soil, so it would be a good idea to pick a different spot for your squash next year. You can spray the leaves with a mixture of one part milk to two parts water to keep the fungus from spreading further. Hope this helps.

  14. I have one butternut squash plant with one squash so far. It’s small but the perfect color. Will it get bigger? Also, I’m in Souther CA and we don’t get frosts (or fall or winter…mostly just an eternal summer! Lol!). When do I pick it? Most of my plants will just keep growing well into Dec/Jan and some have even grown rear round. So, waiting until the first frost…I will probably die off before the plant does ;). Anyway, are there any signs that let me know the squash is ready to pick? Thanks so much!

  15. Thanks for all of the great information. In reading the questions and answers, all of my questions were answered. I have two varieties of winter squash and have around 50 squash total. They aren’t quite ripe yet and my mouth is watering, but I’ll freeze and enjoy fresh when those green stripes disappear! I was thinking about canning some of them.

  16. I think I picked our butternut at the appropriate time..leaves withered, no green lines, but the meat of the squash is very light, not that deep orange?? Any thoughts?

  17. And you…I have another question. We have. A huge vege garden, 36 raised beds!! We have been gardening for a long time!! This summer for the first time our zuc squash and summer squash leaves lost color, sort os shriveled, whitish colored.. squash did not do well, then at the end of the summer new healthy leaves and shoots appeared with the unusual warm weather and it is producing squash again!! And this is fall in New Hampshire!! Any thoughts??

  18. Thank you for the great info. I was in a hurry to pick my squash before the first frost but have learned from you that I do not need to.

  19. Hi Erin. I’m growing my first butternut squash and the first bloom was female with no male blooms. I pollinated the bloom with a male spaghetti squash and it seemed to take but it has remained very small so i have decided to see if it produces seeds and plant then next year. Have you had any experience with any crosses and are they edible?

    1. Ken, your seeds may not be viable, but the fruit from the current plant will be normal. The small size you’re experiencing probably has more to do with soil and climate than hybridization. I had a summer of “cumberkins” when I pollinated some of the pumpkin with cucumber males, and just toasted up the seeds instead of trying to plant them the next year.

  20. I was given butternut squash by friends–they were HUGE—-for some reason I could not even cut thru them—-what was I doing wrong. I even used one of my good knives.

      1. I know this was published a long time ago but I wanted to share some information. I bake my large butternut squash for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. The squash is still hard but it cuts easily and the skin can be peeled or cut off easily also.

  21. This is the first year I have tried my hand at raising Butternut Squash. I live in Oklahoma and am not for sure if I planted my squash too early or if I am picking too early but squash are resistant to nail test and vines are beginning to die. I do not want to pick too early but don’t want to pick too late. We are at least 2 months until our normal first frost. Please advise!

    1. Hi Janet, It’s okay to leave your butternut squash unpicked — even after the vines start to die off — so I’d leave them for now. That’ll give the skins time to harden, so they can be stored all winter.

  22. my butternut squash are ready to pick,,some have split open,,but it’s august in north carolina…what should I do…I still have some green growing but can I store them or do I need to freeze them since it’s still hot

    1. Hi Clark, I would go ahead and pick the butternut squash that have split open. They won’t be fit for long-term storage, so you’ll want to use those now. The rest of your butternut squash will benefit from more time on the vine (even if the vine looks like it’s dying or has died). After butternut squash finishes growing, it needs cure time, so the skin harden. That’s what makes them fit for long-term storage. Hope that helps.

  23. Hi. I’m glad I came across this article. I have anb acorn squash that looks ready to be harvested. (I’m also growing butternut squash.)
    So , my question is: If I’m going to use the squashes right away do they need t be cured?

  24. Did you know that raw cows milk, diluted 1 part milk to 9 parts water, will eliminate powdery mildew? I use it straight up because I have cows. Great on squash, roses etc. Also, it is good to get rid of grasshoppers. They can’t digest the sugars in the milk.

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