I can’t believe after 33 years of gardening I am just becoming interested in growing Butternut Squash. (It’s a winter squash by the way. Probably called that because you can keep them through the winter although they can be harvested as early as July)
I guess the potential for my interest started last year when a friend gave me one of his prized butternut squash. It was sweet and delicious — but still not enough to encourage me to grow any last season.
Then, one of my readers planted Butternut squash in her newly prepared bed at the end of July last year and harvested 5 beauties (in drought no less!) by the first week in October. (An early crop and a late crop is very appealing.)
To further peak my interest I read that the Butternut is a native to the North America. Sorta fun growing something native that the indians also grew.
And to throw more appeal into the pot it is resistant to the squash vine borer because of its solid stems. (You still have to deal with squash bugs and cucumber beetles, but its a great plus to not worry about the borer.)
But you’ll never guess what pushed me over the line and made it a must have for this coming season.
It was a recipe from the ” Joy of Cooking” that one fellow said was worth the price the whole book!
It’s called Sour Cream Butternut Squash Pie. The recipe is at the end of this post and when you read it you might want to grow them as well.
Easy to Grow
They’re easy to grow and even though they sprawl 6 feet or more you can tuck them into your perennial border and let them wander like I’m going to do — as long as you watch them as you would if they were in the garden.
Prepare Your Spots
You can prepare your spots early in the year if your ground is not frozen. Start by preparing a circle about 2 feet across and at least a foot deep. I’m going to amend the soil with about an inch or two of leaves that have been chopped with the lawn mower. If you have compost — use that. Butternuts love soil with lots of organic matter.
After the “hill” is prepared, I’ll cover it with straw or pine to protect the ground. When spring comes thin the mulch a bit so that the ground will warm more quickly than it does with thick mulch.
When to Plant
Butternut seed will not germinate in cold soil. Wait to plant until the soil is warm. (If you have a soil thermometer you can test the soil temperature about 4 inches deep until it shows about 70 degrees.)
When the soil is sufficiently warm, plant about 4 seeds in each hill, 3 inches apart and one to two inches deep. When seedlings are about 4 inches tall keep the strongest 2 plants in each hill.
When to Harvest
Your squash will take 83 to 95 days to mature. They are ready to harvest when they turn a peanut color and the stem is tan (brown) and cracking. (When ready they will resist the light pressure of your fingernail.) If you harvest before it’s fully mature you run the risk of having it lose its sweetness.
Here in Virginia we have enough time for a second crop. Harvest BEFORE frost and don’t be tempted by articles that tell you the frost won’t hurt them. Any spot where the frost has does damage is where the squash will rot when kept.
Still Eatable After Frost Damage
They are still eatable after frost damage, they just won’t keep in storage.
So, if you’re caught unawares and get frost damage — cut, remove the seed, bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour and enjoy. Or scoop out the beautiful flesh and freeze for another time. Or make a lovely soup or a delicious pie!
Store in an unheated room.
Undamaged squash can keep until the following spring. Store in a cool dry place. An unheated room would be perfect.
As promised, here’s the recipe for the Pie from the “Joy of Cooking”. (I plan on making some adjustments when I make this pie. For example: I’ll make my crust from scratch and I’ll use honey instead of sugar.)
Sour Cream Butternut Squash Pie One 9-inch pie; 8 servings
A tangy pie with a light, souffle-like texture.
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Building up a high fluted rim, prepare in a 9-inch pan, preferably glass, glazing with the egg yolk: Baked Flaky Pastry Crust, or Pat-in-the-Pan Butter Crust.
In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk together thoroughly:
1 1/2 cups freshly cooked butternut squash
8 ounces (Scant 1 cup) sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves or allspice
1/4 tsp salt
Whisking constantly, heat over medium heat until just warm to the touch.
Beat on medium speed until foamy: 3 large egg whites, at room temperature. Add: 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form, then gradually beat in: 1/4 cup sugar.
Increase the speed to high and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the squash mixture,
Pour the filling into the prepared crust.
Bake until the top has browned lightly and feels softly set when touched, 40 to 50 minutes.
Let cool completely on rack. At this point the pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Let warm at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with whipped cream.
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