Squash gets overlooked for its versatility and overall yum-factor when it comes to garden vegetables (okay, technically a fruit). Always a bridesmaid, squash is often relegated to “side dish material,” and the general public doesn’t give it a second thought. But we’re not the general public. We’re gardeners and we know how amazing squash is! For one thing, it’s generally easy to grow. It’s also versatile in cooking, baking, freezing, and soup-ing. Is soup-ing a word? It is now! Storing squash is probably the trickiest thing about the vegetable and even that is pretty straightforward once you know the basics. I’ve put together seven tips for storing squash that will help you keep squash fresher for longer.
1. Know your squash
Did you know that there are over 100 types of squash in both summer and winter varieties? The first tip for storing squash is knowing what type of squash you’re dealing with. It may sound simple enough but knowing whether your squash is a summer or winter variety will drastically alter your storage method.
2. Don’t wash your squash
Don’t wash it! I know, this seems counterintuitive. Getting moisture on your summer or winter squash can speed up decomposition. No matter the type, it’s best to wait until you are about to cook or freeze your squash. Then you can wash your squash. (Yes, I just wanted to type that out again because it rhymed. No, I’m not sorry.)
3. Cure winter squash for long term storage
When it comes to winter squash, “curing” just means drying out. When you harvest winter squash, leave about three inches of vine attached. This aids in preventing decay and helps your squash last longer in storage. Let the squash dry out in a warm location with good airflow for about 10 days. Ideal temperatures for curing are in the low 80s. If possible, space squash out on some kind of mesh or chicken wire to make sure air gets to all sides. If you can’t cure squash outdoors, a warm shed with good air circulation will work.
4. Store winter squash in a cool dark place
When storing squash of the winter variety, find a shelf in a cool dark basement or at least the darkest corner of your pantry. Line whatever container or shelf you’re using with newspaper or paper towel. Add a layer of straw if you have it. Nestle squash on the straw. Both newspaper and straw will help absorb moisture and prevent rot. Stacking squash can cause rot and decomposition, so keep them to one layer. Winter squashes typically last between two to six months depending on the variety.
5. Store summer squash in the fridge crisper
There’s a bit more immediate satisfaction in storing squash of the summer variety (zucchini, yellow squash, etc.). This is because summer squash needs to be used soon after harvest. For storing squash of the summer variety, place summer squash in a plastic bag. Poke a few holes in the bag to promote airflow, then place the bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Most summer squashes need to be used within a few days of harvest but can last up to about a week.
6. Look for signs of rotting
Winter squash will start to soften and leak liquid when it’s gone bad. Mold will sometimes form, too. In both cases, it’s time to throw your winter squash away or into your outdoor compost pile.
Summer squash can sometimes look a bit scratched up, but that’s usually just surface imperfections and you can ignore that. What you can’t ignore is firmness, texture, and color. If your summer squash gets squishy, slimy, or brown, it’s time to say goodbye.
7. Use it, don’t lose it
Keep an eye on your squash and make sure to use them before they go bad. With summer squash, I sometimes get stuck in a rut of just sautéing them on the stove or grilling them in the back yard. But I challenge you to think outside the box. If you’re into soups, I highly suggest you take a peek at this summer squash soup recipe. It’s such a fun way to use yellow squash and has a surprising flavor thanks to a secret ingredient!
If you’re looking for a new way to use winter squash, then check out this dish I made with delicata squash. I’ve made this dish for everyone I know and they all think I’m a culinary wizard but the truth is, it’s so easy! Everyone will be licking their plates after this one!
Do you have any tips for storing squash? What are your squash-storing secrets? Let me know in the comments!