Identifying Ripe Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is a favorite squash that many gardeners enjoy growing. It has orange flesh that works in both sweet recipes and savory ones. Butternut is easy to grow, and you can store it for several months. Whether you grow it in your garden or purchase it at a store, it is important to know how to choose one that is ripe.


The Appearance of Butternut Squash

Butternut squash, like other winter squashes, has a tough rind and firm flesh. The thick skin is what allows you to store it for long periods of time. A butternut squash is roughly peat shaped, with a bottom that is much wider than the top.

The skin of a butternut squash is a pale tan with a slightly orange hue. The flesh inside is a bright orange similar to pumpkin, and each squash fruit feels solid and heavy for its size.

Signs of Maturity

Whether you are harvesting butternut squash from your garden or are buying at a Farmer’s Market, a mature butternut squash will have the following characteristics:

  • The skin is hard and free of cuts or soft spots.
  • You cannot scratch or dent the rind with a fingernail.
  • The color is a uniform tan with no shine.
  • The fruit feels dense when you pick it up.

Tip: If you see a butternut squash that is shiny or has some green color, it is not ripe.

Vine-Ripened Butternut Squash

If you have butternut squash in your garden, you should also notice other signs of maturity. First, the vines will start to turn brown and die off. Second, the stems of the butternut squash will turn gray and dry out. Last, the fruit may fall off of the vine spontaneously. You should harvest adult butternut squash immediately, as it will not continue to ripen off the vine.

Once you harvest the butternut, you can store it for extended periods of time with proper care. in fact, butternut squash can be safely stored for as many as six months. In this way, you can enjoy the taste of the squash long after the harvest is over.