Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), also known as butternut pumpkin, is a variety of winter squash that grows on a vine.
It has a sweet, nutty flavor comparable to pumpkin.
When a butternut squash is ripe, it turns a dark beige color and becomes sweeter and richer (1).
Whether you’re growing your own butternut squash or buying it from the grocery store, selecting a ripe squash can be tricky.
However, the easy way to determine a ripe butternut squash, check the color and weight.
In This Article
Picking Squash at the Store
The first thing to look for in a mature butternut squash is a dark beige color. Depending on the varieties, butternut squashes that are light yellow or have green areas, as well as those with a shiny skin, may not be fully ripped (2).
A butternut squash with a bright surface means it was harvested too early. On the surface of most squashes, there will be a huge pale patch.
This is where the squash rested on the ground and is not a sign of unripeness. Second, it’s fine if the butternut squash shows blemishes on the surface, but cuts, holes, or soft patches can lead to mold or rot and should be avoided (3).
You should also avoid a squash with brown marks. Frost causes brown stains, which show that the butternut squash may spoil soon (3).
Third, if you find a butternut squash with a missing stem at the grocery store, it may be overripe. Look for a squash with a firm stem that has a deep brown color (4).
A squash without a stem rots faster than one with a stem. Last but not least, check the weight of a butternut squash.
That’s said a rip butternut squash should feel heavier. Select two squashes of the same size and weigh them in your hands. Choose the one that is heavier.
Picking Squash from a Garden
The size of a ripe winter squash varies depending on variety and soil conditions (5).
Most butternut squash will grow to be 20–30 cm long (6).
It will be close to harvesting time when your squash reaches this length and stops growing.
Squashes cultivated in richer soils will grow longer than those grown in poorer soils. The stem of a butternut squash changes color as it ripens, from green to brown.
Leave the squash on the vine for a little longer if the stem is green. When the squash is ready to be harvested, the stem will turn brown and dry.
When removing the butternut squash from the vine, leave the stem if possible.
Removing the stem from the squash may cause the flesh to peel open, enabling bacteria to enter and causing the squash to spoil faster.
Storing Your Winter Squash
If stored in a cold, dark place, a harvested butternut squash can last for up to 3 months (7).
You should store butternut squash at temperatures ranging from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 16 degrees Celsius) (8).
When stored at room temperature, a ripe squash will keep for around 14 days. Before storing the squash, remove it from any plastic packaging.
To keep the texture of an unsliced butternut squash, avoid refrigerating it.
If you refrigerate your squash after slicing it open, the slices will stay fresh for 4 days.
Before storing freshly sliced squash, place them in an airtight container or sealable freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air.
Add a label to the bag or container to keep track of how long it’s been refrigerated. Cooked butternut squash will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
Butternut squash can preserve its fresh flavor in the freezer for around 10 to 12 months (9).
Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) has a sweet, nutty flavor similar to pumpkin.
Ripe butternut squash is ideal for sweet and creamy dishes.
Unripe butternut squash is bland and flavorless.
Therefore, it is important to choose the perfect one to get the most out of it.