Butternut Squash (Waltham)
A favorite since 1936. Butternut's mild nutty flavor and firm texture make them versatile and easy to use in the kitchen. They are able to keep all winter, and are the most popular winter squashes in the US. Strong vines are solid clear through, unlike the hollow vines of many squash, which makes them great candidates for trellising. I have seen butternuts grown on A-frame tunnels or teepees made of rough tree saplings, as well as on fencing or regular trelliswork. These need a longer season than the other winter squash we carry--95 to 120 days depending on how hot your summer is--but can ripen all over the country except the very coldest, short-season areas. Curing (just let it sit indoors) for 1 month after harvest brings out full sweetness.
Butternuts are Cucurbita moschata. In the South, and other regions with vine borers, moschatas may be the only squash you can grow to maturity, because of their resistance to borers and other pests.
After the sprouts are a few inches tall, thin to the best 3 plants per hill. Hoe out all the weeds in the bed or row, piling some dirt at the base of the plants. Then if you put down mulch, it will prevent weeds and keep the squash off of damp soil. If squash bugs are a problem for you, sprinkle well with diatom dust.
Summer squash should be picked every day or two, and eaten while small (6"-8".) The reason people complain about having too many zucchini is that they let them get too big. Store squash in a dry place. Even zucchini keeps better in a dry airy room than in the fridge, where it molds.
Winter squash is ripe when there is no green left in the stem--it should be hard and woody or corky--and the skin should be too hard to poke with a fingernail. Regardless of ripeness, harvest before frost or they will rot. Use any unripe or bruised ones first. The rest should be put indoors to cure for a month before eating. This makes them much sweeter. Handle them gently and wipe if needed but don't wash. They can be stored in any dry place that stays above 50 degrees. Check often for soft spots, and don't forget to use them for soups and pasta as well as roasted and in pie.
Seed saving: Insect-pollinated, requires at least 500 ft isolation in home gardens (1/2 mile if selling seed.) Our offerings include 3 species: Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin, delicatas, acorns, and most summer squash), Cucurbita maxima (Buttercup, Lower Salmon River, Stella Blue, Zapallo), and Cucurbita moschata (Butternut, Tromboncino.) Members of the same species will cross with each other, but not with other species. So if you have the isolation to grow squash seed, you can have one of each species and still save seed.