I have some winter squash plants, butternut and pumpkin, growing like gangbusters. I have noticed some of the butternuts are looking like they might be ready to pick but I thought they were suppose to be harvested in the fall. Is that correct? Or can I use the squash now?
drthor, you can eat them when they are young, but winter squash really should be allowed to mature on the vine until when you push a thumbnail into the skin it does not make a mark. Then after they are harvested they should age for a few weeks at least- that is when the full flavor and sugar develops. They will keep all winter in a cool dry place, and get better with age!
I am in complete agreement with Jo -- they CAN be eaten but winter squash are best left alone to reach their full potential.
You can eat the whole squash plant. Some people do cook the leaves, and and eating squash blossoms is very common -- but I prefer the fruit!
Still, if frost is coming and there are unripe squash left on the vine, or you are thinning them out, or you just want to experiment, it's good to keep in mind the unripe ones don't need to be tossed. It's also a good time to try the greenery.
It's mostly in Asian cuisine to eat the shoots and leaves, which usually means stir-fry or blanched, although I understand that they are also used in African cuisine in soups. I had them once in a Thai restaurant in a stir-fry. They aren't bitter but I don't recall them having much taste -- but it was a well seasoned dish. I've added them to a casserole at home -- again, they didn't really stand out from the rest of the food. Maybe I need to try some stir-fried at home with fewer spices.
I would think they do need to be cooked at least long enough to soften the prickly hairs. I'm not sure they are robust enough stand up to being boiled into submission with a bit of left over pig like greens are usually cooked in the South. :)
Here are a couple of recipes to give you some ideas:
Regarding rotting, I suppose they could, if the ground is wet. I pick them as soon as fully ripe, too, because otherwise the squash bugs damage them. One year I pulled up all my vines and let the squash under an overhang to cure and left town for a few days. When I came back, my squash were literally covered in hungry squash bugs -- ick! They did a whole lot of damage and the fruit deteriorated in storage more rapidly than normal.
you are right !
I was so excited that I have one zucchino from "Tromboncino" variety ... so I did harvest it.
It was green inside and tender. I grilled last night and it was good.
But two years ago I had a tons of those zucchini ... the second picture is from October 2011 harvest.
The zucchino inside was yellow and it made the most delicious sugary soup ...
So I will wait next time.
[quote="HoneybeeNC"]I assume they don't have tendrils (like peas) so keeping them up off the ground would mean tying them up in some way?
I have enough room that I could let them wander over the ground.
Anyone want to share links to butternut squash seeds?[/quote]
Butternut squash do climb with tendrils, although they prefer to sprawl and spread out. The fruit get very heavy, so if you tie they up you probably need to tie up the fruit as well, although the vines are pretty tough and sturdy.
The tried-and-true variety is Waltham Butternut (C. moschata), which is available pretty much everywhere. These plants do get big, and the fruits can be up to 5 pounds each although 3 lbs. is more typical. They need a long season to mature, but once cured store for 7-8 months in my 65F basement.
I've been trying the smaller varieties (that's a lot of squash!) but haven't had any success so far. This year I'm trying "Nutterbutter" and the plant looks good so far and has female flowers. Last year I did "Honey Nut" and they were neither productive nor disease and pest resistant, and the ones I got didn't taste very good.
butternut squash when young are sort of a whitish light green and can be pictcked anytime they turn that mature beige color. If its early enough harvesting them can stimulate the vines to produce new flowers and more fruit. Butternut squash can be stored for months.
drobarr - I recently purchased a butternut that looked just like the one in the photo from the link you gave. It had an excellent flavor. I prefer the butternuts that are "blocky" as they have fewer seeds.
You are right they do have fewer seeds. They are larger fruits...instead of the traditional two section peanut shape, they have three sections. I'm sure the variety has many different names depending on the seed company. I also still grow Walthams as well.
I love butternuts, but also grow other winter squash. I like those that are a max of 5 pounds as there is just me to feed (without too much squash waste). A new one (to me) last year was Red Kuri, but half of them spoiled on the ground, my fault for not protecting them from the grass and weeds in the new bed area.