Butternut squash is a fruit that belongs to the winter squash family, along with pumpkins. Like all members of the cucurbitaceae family, butternut squash flowers are monoecious and bear both male and female flowers.
The differences between these types of squash center on fruit shape, size and color.
Despite the fact that butternut squash is a fruit, it can be classified as both a root vegetable and fruit. It is also known as winter squash. The butternut squash belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It includes many different types of plants, including cucumbers, cantaloupes, gourds, watermelon and what we know as zucchini.
Butternut Squash grows on vines that are supported by poles or trellises that are made of wood or metal. The female flowers of this plant are the ones that produce the seeds for reproduction so they should not be allowed to self-pollinate.
For pollination purposes you need at least two plants within 200 feet of one another with a pollinating variety growing somewhere in between. In order for the fruit to develop, the flowers have to be fertilized. This is done by planting a pollinator plant that has been around previously or can be purchased from a nursery.
The vines should be tied up along poles as soon as they appear and should start flowering within six weeks of being planted. Harvesting begins approximately 100 days after planting with early varieties and 150 days after planting with late varieties.
The fruits are usually twirled onto a hook from the vine. This also can be done by cutting them free from their attachment point on the vine itself once ripe enough. Butternut squash should be stored in a cool dry place for about three months or longer if conditions were correct during the time of storage.
Some of the many varieties of butternut squash that are available include: The Long Island Cheese which is a good keeper and grows to be twelve inches long, the All American which can also be used as a pie pumpkin, and the Small Sugar which usually has a more tender flesh and cooks up very quickly.
If you decide to save seeds from your crop next year make sure you chop them up first before placing them in your container for storage. They require cold treatment for about three weeks and then can be stored at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit until use.
Butternut Squash is high in dietary fiber, Vitamin A, B-6 , C, E, K & manganese, potassium, niacin, folate, riboflavin and dietary minerals. It has phytonutrients such as cucurbitacins and other antioxidants. It can as well fight cancerous cell formation in the body. The seeds of butternut squash also contain a good amount of protein and essential fatty acids that are extremely beneficial to your health.
Should you decide to plant butternut squash next year for yourself or for sale purposes you will find it is fairly simple since they grow on vines that require less care than other plants do thus creating an almost no learning curve at all when growing them.
With homegrown produce becoming more popular by the day, your profits could potentially become very substantial if managed correctly from planting through harvest time and storage . If you are looking for an additional source of income or just want to grow your own vegetables then butternut squash is definitely one that should be considered.
With elderly people becoming more and more at risk for malnutrition, the variety of produce grown in home gardens like butternut squash can help make sure they still receive the nutrients they need. This helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle which will also allow them to continue living independently without assistance from others.
By growing your own food it provides many health benefits not only for yourself but also those around you as well including animals and others you may come into contact with each day.
If cost is something that concerns you when purchasing this type of fruit or vegetable then let me assure you that growing your own produce allows you to control costs. This helps you to control quality as well so you will know exactly what is going into the soil or water before they are ingested by those around you.
This way you can be sure that no chemicals or toxins were used in their upbringing and your mind can be at ease knowing that they are safe for consumption even by those with allergies and other sensitivities.
Nutritionists highly encourage this type of produce. This is because it has a high percentage of potassium and Vitamin A. It is also low in calories and sodium, making it an excellent choice for anyone who wishes to lose weight or maintain a lean figure by eating properly.
They also suggest including squash along with other vegetables such as carrots, turnips, greens (Kale), onions, peas , corn & broccoli which provide the daily allowance of antioxidants that your body needs to stay healthy.
Butternut variety selection
Like other cucurbits, butternuts produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant; however, some varieties tend to be either predominantly male or female plants.
Therefore it is recommended to grow several vines together to maintain the fruit set. For this article we will use the designation “variety” for each member listed below, as they are considered separate varieties at present.
Varieties: ‘Connecticut Field’ or “Stokes” – a small, round fruit that is a pale yellow with a few dark green stripes. This variety matures early and produces mostly female plants.
‘Delicata’ – has an oblong shape with creamy white skin and orange flesh. ‘Delicata’ is one of the most popular winter squash varieties because it can be harvested as soon as 70-90 days after planting. It also bears predominantly female flowers, but does not reliably produce heavy yields of edible fruit like other varieties on this list
Golden Delicious Early Butternut – A medium size (8-15 pounds), bright golden colored fruit with grained, sweet orange flesh. This variety is a hybrid and one of the earliest to mature, bearing fruit in 90-120 days after planting.
‘Kemper’ – A medium sized (6 to 10 pounds), slightly flattened fruit that matures in about 100 days after planting. The color is pale yellow with a few green stripes along the length of its body.
‘Nadagold’ – An oblong shaped orange fruit with golden streaks throughout its entire length. This variety matures at about 95 to 120 days after planting and bears large crops of edible fruit on female plants.
Pick a location where you want your butternut squash plants to grow located in full sun for best yield production. Add several inches of compost to the soil and mix it in. Soil should be well-draining and loose, so that it can hold moisture for butternut squash vines.
Butternuts are long-season plants and need a minimum of 90 days to produce edible fruit. However, they typically take 100 or more days to reach maturity under normal garden conditions (80-90° F daytime temperatures).
The recommended time for planting seeds outdoors is around May 15th; however, if you live in an area with mild winter weather (fall plantings) you could also plant as early as mid February. Seeds will rot in cold wet soils: wait until after the last frost date to begin your spring plantings outdoors.
Seeds can also be planted indoors 4 to 5 weeks before the last frost date. If you live in a northern climate where nighttime temperatures drop below 50 degrees, protect your young plants from cold by enclosing them in a plastic plant tunnel or covering the entire row with a spun row cover supported by hoops.
Growing Conditions for Butternut Squash
Plant size: Vines grow up to 15 feet long and fruit production is higher on short vines which produce more runners than long vines, but longer vines make harvesting easier (the fruits are closer together)
Spacing: Plant seeds 2 inches deep; thin seedlings 12 to 18 inches apart, hills of three plants about 3 feet apart; hills of four plants about 3 feet, 4 inches apart; hills of five plants about 4 feet apart.
Temperature: Butternuts require an average soil temperature of 65°F degrees for best germination
When to water: keep the soil evenly moist with good drainage
Watering tips: use drip irrigation or soaker hoses instead of overhead sprinklers
Fertilizing: side dress your plants with compost tea at planting and again when fruits are beginning to form. Use a high nitrogen fertilizer twice during the season if you want larger fruit size. Stop feeding vines when fruit is set.
For pollination, butternuts need two compatible varieties planted within 50 feet of each other. One male flower from a different plant is required for every three to five female flowers. ‘
To ensure good pollination, plan on planting at least six vines of each variety you choose or make sure your local garden center carries plants that are already grafted and/or self-fruitful.
So you see how beneficial butternut squash is to your health, now all you have to do is plant some seeds and wait for them to grow.
It won’t take long before you can pick & choose which ones look the best then get started cooking them up in a variety of ways including baking, boiling or steaming. Be sure not to overcook them because this will remove most of their nutritional value along with the flavor they were intended to provide.
Growing butternut squash is one way you can save on grocery costs while at the same time providing yourself and others around you with a bountiful harvest full of essential minerals and nutrients needed to promote a healthy lifestyle.
So the next time you are at your local grocery store and see them for sale, think about how much money you could save by planting some in your own backyard then prepare a delicious meal using them as a vegetable side dish or main course to share with friends and family.