Butternut is a sweet and robust winter squash that ripens in warm autumn weather, much like a pumpkin. Although the species is native to Mexico, the Hunter variety has been bred to cope with the UK’s wet and windy climate. Tested by the Royal Horticultral Society, many gardeners now recommend the Hunter for home growers. Yet unpredictable weather and a damp climate can still sometimes leave you with small and under ripe produce. As supermarkets often buy large quantities of fruit and vegetables that ripen during transit, you might also find that you have accidentally bought a less than perfect squash in the supermarket.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Sharp knife or secateurs
- Unripe butternut squash
- Soft cloth
- Windowsill that gets some sunlight
Cut the butternut squash clean off the vine, at least a couple of centimeters up the stalk. Use really sharp secateurs or a knife, being careful not to damage the skin of the squash or you will not be able to keep it long.
Clean any garden debris off the squash by dusting it with a soft, dry cloth. Washing it at this stage will just make it damp and run the risk of it going mouldy before it is ripe.
Place the squash on a sunny windowsill. Even if this is no easy feat on a grey day, any sunlight at all will be amplified by the glass pane and help the ripening process. Keeping the squash inside also protects it from wind, rain, pests and damp to give it the little extra time it needs. If at home keep an eye on where the sun goes throughout house and move the squash around to catch the best of any warm rays. This process can take a week or two.
Tips and warnings
- Bananas and apples ripen after picking, producing ethylene as they do. This sometimes helps other fruits and vegetables ripen if they are kept together.
- When ripe, your squash should have a peachy beige skin all over with no green.
- Ripening indoors will never produce the juicy sweet flavour of a sun ripened butternut squash but it does stop you from having to waste a crop. Just be aware that your indoor ripened squash may be an ideal soup, stew or muffin ingredient rather than the star of the dish. So choose your recipe appropriately.
- Keep an eye on your squash over the couple of weeks it takes to ripen and do not let it rot. The whole squash should remain firm to the touch without any soggy or wet patches.
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