Survival Crop – Winter Squash

I love Winter Squash.  If you have the room for it, I can’t recommend it highly enough for a survival garden. Very nutritious –Mostly carbs, with some protein, they are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. They are also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a VERY good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese. They also contain some Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Read More Stores REALLY well – Winter squashes have a hard rind on them that really helps them keep their shelf quality.  Some actually improve in flavor after curing and storing. The Banana types and the Hubbards are huge and can feed quite a crowd from a single squash.  I’ve found that most will tolerate chunks being cut out of them over a few days without any noticeable loss in flavor or taste.

Table Queen (acorn type) 1 to 2 months Butternut 2 to 3 months Hubbard types 3 to 6 months Banana 3 to 6 months Buttercup (turban type) 3 to 6 months Sweet Meat 4 to 6 months

Did I mention they TASTE DELICIOUS?!  My babies love roasted and pureed squash.  I love roasted squash.  I do have trouble with the soups made from winter squash, they tend to be too thick and the texture doesn’t agree with me.  But, lots of people swear by the squash soups, so do give that route a try.  Soups are good survival dishes, all the nutrients stay in the broth so you don’t “lose” anything.

Easy to grow – kids even like to grow these, because of how fast they sprout and how quickly the long vines grow.  You do need some room for them to roam though.  Last year I let them take over a side of my front yard. This year I had some space behind a local church.

Easy to harvest – Harvest all types of squash and pumpkin before frost begins. Squash are ready for harvest when the rind is hard enough to resist fingernail scratches. Cut the stem 2 to 4 inches from the fruit. Pumpkins without stems do not store well. Hubbard-type squash stores best with the stems completely removed. Handle fruit carefully to keep them in good condition. Do make sure you cure them for best storage. Nearly all mature squash, except acorn types, will benefit from a short period of curing. Curing is holding squash and pumpkin at a temperature favorable for healing cuts and scratches and for forming a protective corky layer over injuries and cut surfaces of the stem. Cure squash and pumpkin for 10 days at temperatures of 80 to 85°F.

Storing your bounty – Squash and pumpkin deteriorate rapidly if stored at temperatures below 50°F. The best storage temperature is between 50 and 55°F. Fruit that has been exposed to freezing before harvest also will deteriorate rapidly.

I always make sure we have a cabinet full of winter squash before the cold of winter sets in. They are our mainstay for fresh veggies during winter.  Any other squash lovers out there? Share some favorite recipes or varieties!

– Calamity Jane

17 comments… add one
  • GW November 29, 2012, 8:03 am

    I’m a huge fan of spaghetti squash. It’s fun to grow, stores a long time, and is easy to cook.

    1. Cut the squash in half (hot dog style).
    2. Removes seeds.
    3. Place both halves face down over boiling water until the insides are soft.
    4. Scrape the interior fibers out with a fork. (It’s stringy like spaghetti…hence the name. The fibers are also a little crisp, so those who don’t like the squash texture, will still enjoy this variety.)
    5. Serve with your favorite alfredo/marinara pasta sauce.

    It’s a great substitute for pasta if your trying to stay either high fiber/low-carb or gluten free.

    My garden of six seeds of spaghetti squash mounds produced enough to feed my family squash every other week and still give some to the neighbors until mid summer. I stored them on the concrete floor in our basement.

    • Calamity Jane November 30, 2012, 7:31 am

      That’s interesting, a lot of the squash care I’ve read says that concrete floors are not the best storage places, due to the chance of damaging the rind.
      I keep meaning to try spaghetti squash.. I’ll have to get on that. Thanks for the comment GW!

  • Liz Gardener November 29, 2012, 11:03 am

    My garden went wild this year because we went on vacation for a month, but I managed to plant some winter squash seeds in the rows where I had dug my potatoes. Before frost we pulled three wheelbarrows of squash out and they are now in the cellar. My favorite is the kombucha. Its an amazing producer.

  • Karen November 29, 2012, 11:20 am

    Wondering how these would grow over-winter in a cold frame in the zone 5b area?

    • Calamity Jane November 30, 2012, 7:29 am

      Well, squash vines, especially mature winter squash vines can stretch for 15 feet easily. Your cold frame would have to be huge. Most of the time, by late October, the squash vines are battling mildew, bugs and the cold weather and that naturally sends them into “save the babies mode” and the vines start sending nutrients to the maturing squash, letting the leaves and vines slowly die. I don’t think there are any “overwintering” varieties of squash, I don’t think it’s in their design. Save your cold frames for kales/cabbages/greens/turnips I know you’ll have better luck. :)

      • Karen November 30, 2012, 11:24 am

        Okay, thank you! I haven’t set up a cold frame yet~ not quite that organized!!! LOL Hopefully soon!!!!!!

  • Tim November 29, 2012, 12:02 pm

    I love it, too. But I’m ‘floored’ when I go to my farmers’ market here in Hampton Roads, and the suqashes are all from Nicaragua & other points south.

    How is that economically viable?

  • Yoda November 29, 2012, 1:22 pm

    Well done Calamity:

    In addition to a survival food, squash is an excellent low budget vegetable for lean times.
    Thanks Calamity:
    Be aware and prepare!
    “US Government attack on working and middle class lifestyle”

  • smokechecktim November 29, 2012, 2:39 pm

    cut them in half….clean out the seeds(save for later) fill the cavity with a collection of whatever soaked/softened grains(barley etc) you have, mixed with a little ground meat and onion. Bake until the squash is tender. Sometimes we seal the grain with cheese on top. And our chickens go crazy with the rind when done.

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    • Karen November 30, 2012, 11:25 am

      Oooo! That sounds so yummy!!! Going to try it!!!

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  • Sarah November 30, 2012, 6:44 pm

    I think winter squash keeps well even longer than the times you have given. In Africa, butternut squash would last for months even in the heat of the summer. In Canada, I keep butternut and spaghetti squash for 6-12 months in the basement (heated) on shelves.

  • John Brown November 30, 2012, 9:11 pm

    > How is that economically viable?

    Many people in Central America earn probably < $1000 USA in a year, that helps.

    The produce they charge $0.75 each in the store, they probably pay the farmer <$0.05. The produce is cheap if you have rain and use heirloom seeds vs. GMO. I was surprised how many packages of frozen veggies in Walmart come from China. What I have not been able to determine is if they are pre- packaged in China or done in the USA. The produce from SA and CA comes on truck and I would not be surprised if most came on Mexican owned trucks directly from field to the USA.

    I love squash soup and roasted acorn squash. We bake the seeds like pumpkin seeds. What I like about squash is most of the small mammals will not eat them like they do watermelons and corn.


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