Butternut squash is the best winter squash

– Posted in: Recipes, Vegetables

This is not winter squash:

This is what you do with excess--especially overmature--summer squash.

This is what you do with excess--especially overmature--summer squash.

One advantage of homeschooling is that faced with too much zucchini, yellow crookneck, patty pan, and kousa squash, you just bring out the butter knives and conduct art class.

Wait to harvest winter squash

I had to share that with you, because I don’t have any pictures of winter squash. We leave winter squash on the vine for as long as possible, because the longer the squash has a chance to mature, the sweeter and more flavorful it will be. A light frost, which is what we expect to have tonight, will help to bring out the sweetness, but if the squash itself actually freezes, it will ruin its ability to keep well in storage.

Butternut squash is best, Purdyville citizens agree

We are partial to butternut squash, and that is the only kind we consistently grow. Last year we grew Hubbard to make our own “pumpkin” pies, and to use in quick breads. Butternut squash puree would work as well, but we never have any left over! (It is said that most if not all canned pumpkin is actually Hubbard squash, but I have never found an authoritative confirmation of this. It works for us, being less watery than pumpkin.)

Butternut squash shopping tips

If you are purchasing butternut squash, get the biggest one you can find. It will have a better flavor, and you can freeze leftover mashed squash to use in the aforementioned baking projects. Avoid any that have a greenish tinge. Also keep in mind that a squash without a stem won’t keep as long.


Our favorite way to eat butternut squash is baked, mashed with butter. No salt. No pepper. No spices. On special occasions we throw marshmallows on top of the heated squash and brown them in the oven. Those of us watching fat intake eat it without butter, and it still tastes pretty darn good. Butternut is just the best winter squash.

Baked Butternut Squash chez Purdyville

Baking squash results in a more intense flavor than boiling it.

11 pounds butternut squash (or as much as you can fit on your 2 biggest baking sheets)
1 cup butter — (2 sticks)
2 10 ounce bags miniature marshmallows — optional

Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place on two greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until quite soft. When cool enough to handle, remove squash from skins and place in 15×10 pan. Cut up two sticks of butter and mash into warm squash. Return to oven and bake until heated through, up to half an hour.

If desired, marshmallows can be placed on top and browned for 5 minutes.

Butternut Squash Pie

I like this much better than pumpkin pie. From The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1990), p. 652

1 pastry crust
1 cup pureed or mashed butternut squash
1 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk (even evaporated skim milk works fine)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs — slightly beaten
3 tablespoons brandy — (no brandy? try 1/8 tsp. rum extract, or to taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mace — *see Note

Preheat the oven to 425º. Line a pie pan with the pastry dough. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and beat until smooth and well-blended. Pour into the lined pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300º and bake for 45-60 minutes more until the filling is firm.

Butternut Squash Bread

Originally a pumpkin bread recipe, which we adapted from Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 13th edition, page 539

2 1/4 cups flour — you can use part or all whole wheat pastry flour
3/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon allspice
1 1/8 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups butternut squash puree — any kind of winter squash is fine
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs — beaten
3/8 cup water
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop the nuts. Sift together the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients (easiest in the food processor).Combine the wet and dry ingredients, but don’t mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts. Pour into a well-buttered 9×5 loaf pan. Bake 60-70 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Wait 10 minutes, and then turn out the bread onto a rack to cool.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kate October 10, 2008, 7:49 pm

Greetings from Oregon, where we’re about to have our first frost of the year. We are housesitting for a friend whose butternut squash is rapidly maturing in the garden. Unsure of whether to harvest it before the frost, I googled “frost-garden-butternut squash,” and up came your blog! Thanks for the info and inspiration. I too am a big fan of the butternut now, especially in savory dishes (I like the ravioli idea…)!

Kathy Purdy October 11, 2008, 9:53 pm

Hi, Kate, and welcome! Glad you found the information you needed. Please stop by again.

debra September 24, 2008, 7:51 pm

yum, yum, yum, Kathy. I know what I’m buying at tomorrow’s Farmer’s Market! PS, I got some great colchicum photos for you on our Portland-GWA garden tours….to come, deb

Vertie September 24, 2008, 11:37 am

My husband loves, loves butternut squash. I make purees flavored with vanilla, tacos, empanadas, anything I can find with butternut. I also really like kabocha. Have you grown that one?

Kathy Purdy September 23, 2008, 9:02 am

Robin, I hope you know you can feed summer squash to your chickens. They love the seeds especially, so the overmature ones are best. Slice lengthwise and serve seed side up.

Robin Wedewer September 23, 2008, 8:38 am

Yum – more good squash recipes. The only problem is that I didn’t grow any winter squash. As you know, I was–still am–overrun with summer squash. What was I thinking? Oh–I was thinking about chickens!

Ntl Gardening Examiner
(and chicken lover)

Bonnie September 22, 2008, 9:13 pm

I just learned this month that winter squash is not named that because of the season it grows in (at least not here). I’m looking forward to growing cushaw squash in my garden next spring, which is what my grandmother used to fix for me when I was little, with butter and brown sugar.

tedb September 22, 2008, 6:40 pm

We expanded the veg garden this year and are growing Butternut for the first time. Thanks for the info regarding havesting. We’ve picked some that looks ripe are hardened them off in the sun, but I’ll leave the rest until we get cold again. Like Kathy our farm is in a valley and prone to early frosts. We already had the first frost a week ago or so, but it was very light – only the basil seemed affected. I’m sure the next frost isn’t to far away.

Anna September 22, 2008, 5:04 pm

I like it when you mention home schooling cause I did it too. We moved a great deal and it kept a sense of consistency on the subject matter. I miss those days.

The squash project looks very artistic. Thanks for the recipes too.

Kathy Purdy September 21, 2008, 8:44 pm

The moderating influence of a large body of water (the ocean for Boston) is something we lack here. Even my sister, 100 miles north, has a later first frost because she is right on Lake Ontario. And we are in a cold pocket to boot–the “North Pole” of our county. Our first frost is typically the 3rd week of September. Shoot, we have snow flurries in the second half of October, though usually the snow doesn’t stick.

Linda MacPhee-Cobb September 20, 2008, 10:56 pm

I’ve been watching your Twitter posts about frosts and winter squash. It seems much too early for it to be so cold. Even in Boston our first frost would hit around Halloween.

Gail September 20, 2008, 10:18 pm

I love butternut squash most anyway it is cooked…my current favorite is in ravioli! Thanks for the tips on picking out the squash at the market! Gail

Karen September 19, 2008, 7:56 pm

Love the “art class” concept and results! I can’t wait to try the squash bread recipe, I made tons of pumpkin-cranberry bread last winter and need a new twist. I underuse squash due to texture squeamishness so putting it into things is always better for me. Thanks for the great post!

Elizabeth September 19, 2008, 3:25 pm

What a riot. Your kids did a great job!

Susy September 18, 2008, 11:35 pm

OOOOOOO, I love butter nut squash as well. I have a recipe for butternut squash soup with chipotle peppers that’s so fantastic. I can’t wait.

Shady Gardener September 18, 2008, 11:32 pm

Thank you for sharing your recipes! I’ve copied them and printed them out. 🙂 Cute little squash. I have a friend that raises goats. They can eat all the squash they want about this time of year!

Cindy September 18, 2008, 9:22 pm

HaHa – that’s one way to get rid of summer squash!

Craig at Ellis Hollow September 18, 2008, 8:47 pm

I cut out of work a little early today to move some houseplants inside and relocate some tender plants in pots onto the porch in hopes of moving them back out for Indain summer. But if the banana tree and dahlias bite the dust, so be it. In my old age, I’ve come to terms with frost.

Kathy Purdy September 18, 2008, 8:07 pm

Margaret, it’s my kids that would have to teach you. I just hand them butter knives and let them experiment. I don’t have much of a crafting gene myself.

We are at the bottom of the hill, and if anyone gets a frost, it’s us. The only thing that might save us is heavy, early arriving fog.

Margaret September 18, 2008, 6:15 pm

It seems to me that school is too much fun up there in Purdyville. My Martha years left me with a semi-developed crafting gene, you know. Perhaps you could help me cultivate it? Can I enroll?
I agree that ‘Butternut’ is a goodie, and ‘Hubbard’ is my other standby. By the way, frost may settle around here tonight, too, but probably on my neighbors in the hamlet below me and not on my hillside this time around. I usually get spared a few hits as the warm air rises up and over me. Phew.

Diana September 18, 2008, 5:41 pm

Yum! You’ve made me really hungry now. Your art projects are a hoot! I can’t believe you have a frost warning tonight. We might hit 65 tonight and that will feel nice a brisk to us!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens September 18, 2008, 4:06 pm

Some squash grow to be eaten, other squash grows for art class. Very creative.

Good information on winter squash, too. I don’t grow any in my garden (no surprise there), but if I did, I’d take your advice!