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Harvesting and drying decorative gourds

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Squash Turk's Turban.
Photo: Espace pour la vie (Gilles Murray)
Cucurbita maxima 'Turk's Turban'
  • Cucurbita maxima 'Turk's Turban'
  • Basket full of small decorative gourds
  • Butternut Squash ‘Early Butternut’
  • ‘Marina di Chioggia’ squash

A wide variety of winter squash are grown in Québec for food : pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, winter squash, spaghetti squash, etc. However, some squash are inedible or have so little flesh that they are solely used for decorative purposes.

Here are some tips for harvesting, drying and storing winter squash.

Harvesting edible winter squash

Although they are called "winter squash," these squash are very sensitive to cold. Avoid exposing them to temperatures below 10° C, as this can cause them to rot and reduce their shelf life. Therefore, they should be harvested before the night temperatures get too cold.

Winter squash are harvested when ripe, ideally on a dry day. It is best to use a sharp knife or pruning shears in order to keep the peduncle. You could damage the stem and cause the fruit to rot if you just tear the squash off the plant.

For the same reason, you should never carry a squash by the stem. Avoid bruising it, too, as this would be a gateway for disease. Damaged squash should not be stored with healthy specimens, as they will not keep. They must be used quickly.

How to store and dry edible winter squash

To allow superficial wounds to heal and increase the shelf life of squash intended for food, it is recommended to dry them. Drying squash should be done in a rather warm (20 to 25° C), dry and ventilated area, for about 10 to 15 days.

Squash is then stored in a cool spot (preferably between 13 and 18° C), in a well-ventilated spot and away from humidity.

When drying and storing, it is important to leave enough space between squash to encourage better air circulation.

Winter squash can usually be stored for a few months inside your house.

Tip : Do not store climacteric fruits such as bananas and apples near mature squash. This type of fruit, whose ripening is linked to the emission of ethylene, will cause them to ripen even more and may cause them to rot.

How to better store decorative winter squash

Decorative gourds are harvested when they take on their beautiful colors and their stem is brittle. Dry them in a dry spot that has good air circulation. For some varieties, the drying process can take a few months. This involves examining the fruit to make sure it is dry. Decorative gourds dried in this way should keep for several months inside our homes.

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