Butternut squash is a vegetable characterized by an unusual taste and a high content of vitamins and microelements. If you are trying to lose weight or lower your blood cholesterol levels, be sure to include this vegetable in your diet. When ripe, it can be harvested as early as ninety-five days after the first shoots appear. The fruits have an attractive pear-shaped shape, with a thick, elongated upper part and an expanded lower part, in which the seeds of the plant are located. All parts of this vegetable are edible: seeds, leaves, flowers.
Due to its excellent gastronomic qualities, butternut squash is prevalent in almost all countries of the world. Under the dense yellow-brown peel, there is an oily texture of yellow-orange flesh, which exudes a delicate nutty aroma that can attract you. The inner part is not very fibrous. A distinctive feature of butternut squash is that it can be stored at room temperature for quite a long time, about three to four months. Typically, the mass of a fully ripe product on average reaches from 500 grams to 1 kg.
When to Plant Butternut Squash
If you want to plant butternut squash, the best time is at the end of April and the beginning of May if you sow prepared and germinated seeds in advance. After the end of return frosts and the establishment of warm weather, which happens in early June, it will be possible to plant ready-made seedlings at about 30 days. It is not recommended to grow them longer since they will not have enough pot volume for full development.
How to Grow Butternut Squash
1. Seed preparation
First of all, the butternut squash seeds are heated. This is done for 1-2 months near a heating device or stove. Warming up increases the chances of getting more female flowers, which means a good harvest. Then the planting material is prepared.
The preparation consists of some activities:
- Seed selection – Empty seeds are discarded at this stage. To determine if the seeds are empty or not, they are placed in a salt solution. Those that do not drown are empty and are not suitable for landing.
- Hardening – The seeds are wrapped in a damp cloth and kept in the refrigerator for three days. This helps the seedlings to adapt to weather changes quickly.
- Disinfection – Before planting, the seeds are soaked for 10 hours in a weak solution of potassium permanganate or water with aloe juice.
2. Site selection
Butternut squash grows well on a compost heap and in the soil where manure was previously stored. If there is no such place, they choose a garden bed in a sunny area, where plants from the pumpkin family have not grown for three years. Stagnant water for butternut squash is undesirable.
The soil is prepared in the fall, and the garden bed is well fertilized. For each square meter, up to 8 kg of manure, or compost, 15 g of potassium sulfate, and 20 g of superphosphate are applied. Nitrogen fertilizers in the amount of 15 g per 1 square meter are brought in during spring loosening.
3. Seed planting
Many gardeners prefer this method. The planting material is planted in particular soil, which should be as nutritious and loose as possible. Many vegetable growers prepare their soil mixture by mixing peat, coarse sand, and turf soil components. All compound mixtures are taken in equal proportions and thoroughly mixed.
A small layer of sand must be placed on the bottom of the container. The box is then half-filled with soil, and the seeds are planted in it. Gardeners recommend immediately sowing the hybrid in large peat pots. Essentially, this will facilitate planting seedlings in the ground and allow the plant to adapt to a new place quickly. Seedlings are planted in beds at the age of 25-30 days. It is important that warm weather has established on the street and the ground has warmed up to +16 °С.
4. Watering and feeding
Young butternut squashes are most sensitive to lack of moisture. They are watered regularly every 4 to 5 days. After the growth of the root system, watering is carried out less often, but at least 1.5 buckets of water are poured onto the plant to wet the entire root layer. Excessive moisture can provoke too strong growth of leaves to the detriment of the harvest, cracking of fruits, and decay of roots. During the ripening period of butternut squashes, a large amount of moisture will decrease sugar content. Therefore, it is better to underfill the vegetable than to pour it over.
5. Loosening and thinning
Sufficient air supply to the roots is a prerequisite for the successful development of the butternut squash. Therefore, the soil under it is loosened after each watering, hilling plants in the phase of 3-4 true leaves and sprinkling the internodes of the overgrown lashes with earth to form adventitious roots. Plants are thinned out in the germination phase, leaving only one strongest sprout in the hole.
During flowering and the formation of many ovaries, it is important to feed the butternut squashes. It is correct to do this simultaneously with irrigation measures. Apply mineral fertilizers to feed them carefully. And they must be alternated with organic fertilizers (chicken droppings or cow dung diluted in water). A good result is obtained by enriching the soil with wood ash.
Harvesting and Storage of Butternut Squash
Unripe butternut squash is poorly stored. Therefore, for long-term storage, only those fruits are harvested that have acquired a color corresponding to the variety, their peel should harden. This should be done before the onset of frost, in dry and preferably sunny weather. The crop is harvested carefully, avoiding mechanical damage, from which the fruits quickly rot. Incompletely ripe butternut squashes are used immediately after harvest or processed. The fruit must leave a part of the stalk at least 5 cm long.
Uses of Butternut Squash
The pulp of butternut squash contains polyunsaturated fats and has no cholesterol in the fruits. Typically, regular consumption of this vegetable helps to eliminate harmful substances and decay products from the body. Due to its low-calorie content, butternut squash can be used for weight loss and maintaining proper shape. With this in mind, nutritionists advise obese people to include this product in their diet.
Regular consumption of butternut squash has a positive effect on the state of immunity. It is also worth noting that the fruits are diuretic. In this case, it is recommended to use it during the period of liver and kidney diseases. Butternut squash contains a lot of carotenes, even more than carrots. With this in mind, it is recommended to consume the vegetable to improve vision.
Since butternut squash contains vitamin K, regular consumption of the fruit will help slow down the aging process. Also, the vegetable contains potassium, which positively affects the state of blood vessels and blood.
Butternut squash is the most beloved vegetable in many families. Its popularity is associated with its taste, rich pulp color, and long shelf life. After a long time of lying, its pulp acquires a more intense color. This makes it sweet and can last for a long. The best time to plant it is at the end of April and the beginning of May. Also, it can be done in early June if it is the end of return frosts.