|Buttercup Squash (Cucurbita maxima)|
Winter squash is a broad category that basically describes the shelf life of the squash fruit. Those squash that are designated as winter squash have a long storage life if they are kept in a cool, dark and dry location (often a basement or root cellar). Buttercup squash falls under the species Cucurbita maxima with several other varieties of winter squash including some that trace their history back to pre-anglo settlement in North America.
Plant all winter squash in the spring after the chance of frost is over or start them inside 3-4 weeks in advance. Plant 2-3 plants/seeds in hills 6ft apart or individuals 1.5 - 3ft apart in a row. If you have limited space, choose a bush or compact variety, or plan on trellising the vine as part of your vertical garden. Mulch your plants after they are well established but before they have produced much vine. After a plant has set on a couple of fruit, clip off the vine's growing ends to encourage the plant to put its energy into the fruit. Your plants will need to receive the equivalent to 1 inch of rain on a weekly basis, but especially as it starts investing more energy into the fruit. You will know it is time to harvest winter squash when the skin cannot be punctured with a fingernail. Often winter squash are left on the vine until frost kills the plant. Leave an inch or two of stem attached when you harvest the fruit to decrease the opportunity for bacteria and fungus to get into the fruit and cause rot.
All members of the squash family are susceptible to squash vine borers. Precautions should be taken to prevent the establishment of the borers, but by allowing your plant to root at several points along the stem you can help prevent the loss of all of your fruit should the plants get infested.
Harvested fruit can be baked, steamed or roasted, and served mashed, cubed and caramelized with brown sugar and butter, or pureed for soup. My family prefers it covered with brown sugar, butter and marshmallows. How you do serve buttercup squash to your family?
Happy Gardening! :)