Prevent squash rot [UPDATED]Published 10:05am Monday, November 5, 2012 Updated 12:08pm Monday, November 5, 2012
Is it a pumpkin or a squash? Most of them, the hard stemmed ones, are in the same family — Cucurbita pepo.
These are the acorn, delicate and spaghetti types. Winter squash has a wider, softer, pulpy stem you can penetrate with your fingernail. This family is Cucurbita maxima.
Canned pumpkins, usually butternut squash, Cucurbita moschata, are excellent for baking and pies. All are cousins and related to cucumbers.
There are several pumpkins grown for their sweet flavor, but most people look to winter squash to cook.
If you grew your own or got them at the store, and you want to keep them for a while, you will need to take proper care of them to prevent rotting.
If you grew your own, start by wiping any dirt off the rind. Store at 80 to 85 degrees with 75 to 80 percent humidity for about ten days to cure the fruit.
This will heal any wounds, enhances the color, may help ripen any immature fruit and insures a longer post-harvest life. There are a few squash that don’t need curing; Butternut, Hubbard, and Quality are three. Curing acorn types will make them rot more quickly. This type needs to be cooked within a month of harvest.
After you have cured (or not) your squash and pumpkins store them at 50 to 55 degrees.
Immature fruit will not fully develop indoors, so chuck those. If you don’t mind four-footed invasions, you can chop a hole in the unripe to feed the deer.
Do be aware that that will be an invitation you may not want next spring do don’t feed them in the garden.
While all squash and pumpkins are edible, not all of them taste great. Some have more sugar and flavor. If the fruit is fully mature, it will stay firm and the flavor can actually improve for three to six months in storage.
If you haven’t cured it well, however, be prepared for a big glob of rot where your pumpkin or squash was.
Experiment with some new varieties next spring. Mary Meyer, a University of Minnesota Extension Professor and Extension Horticulturist, suggests; Orange Hubbard, Fairy Tale Pumpkin, Autumn Crown, Queensland Blue, Marina di Chioggia, Cinderella Pumpkin Crown and Blue Hubbard.
Winter squash and pumpkins are easy to grow, however, they have a history of wanting the whole garden to sprawl in so look for bush types or cut down on the veggies you really don’t like but grow to brag about.
Also, be aware that some squash are big enough to feed the whole neighborhood. Cooked, they do freeze well, or plan on inviting all your relatives for Thanksgiving and feeding them squash and “pumpkin” pie.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener for Otter Tail County