Butternut gourd, also called simply butternut, is one of the most popular squash varieties.
Basic Butternut facts
Height – 8 to 20 inches (20 to 50 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rich and well drained
Harvest – September to December
From seed to harvest, here is everything you need to know to grow your butternut well and have great harvests.
Sowing and planting butternut
February-March to April is the right time to start sowing butternut gourd in a sheltered place in nursery pots, followed by transplanting when the last frosts are past, or you can also wait for direct sowing starting from the month of May.
- Butternut gourd loves heat, and requires warm to hot climates to germinate properly.
For sowing in nursery pots in spring, count more or less 3 weeks before transplanting them to the ground. That’s why there is no need to sow early.
- Lightly press down 2 to 3 seeds per nursery pot.
- Ensure that temperature doesn’t drop below 50°F (12°C) during germination.
- Once sprouted, keep only the most vigorous seedling.
- 3 weeks later, they can be set into their growing bed, provided that the last frost spells are past already.
- Provide for at least 6 ½ feet (2 meters) between plants.
Sowing butternut seeds directly in the ground
It is also possible to sow directly in the ground, starting from the month of May, if the area is prone to mild fall seasons.
- The richer your soil, the more abundant will your harvest be.
- Feel free to add fertilizer or manure upon planting.
- Loosen up the soil well before sowing.
Caring for butternut
Once your butternut plants have grown well, mulch their base to keep the soil moist and cool.
- Mulch helps keep the butternut from staying in contact with the soil thus avoiding the risk of rot.
Butternut gourd needs water to develop well, especially in case of heat and/or extended dry spell.
- Water in the morning without wetting the leaves over the summer.
Fruits start to mature as early as September, but best is to collect your butternut when the stem has dried up and that foliage has turned yellow.
- That is why harvest usually takes place at the beginning of October.
- They must be harvested before the first frost spells when their color is a deep orange.
After the harvest, butternut can keep for several months, in a dry room with a temperature ranging from 50 to 60°F (10 to 15°C) maximum.
- Avoid storing the butternut in a moist room because this considerably shortens its keeping.
- As soon as any spot on the butternut softens up, remove it and eat it immediately.
All there is to know about butternut
We find butternut appealing for its subtle taste which is a bit sweet and buttery.
With low calorie levels and high vitamin C, B1, B6 and K content, butternut also has proven antioxidant properties.
Since it contains 92% water, and since it is potassium-rich, butternut is an excellent vegetable against hypertension.
This fruit / vegetable also has the advantage of keeping for a long time over winter, ideally at temperatures of about 50 / 55°F (10 / 12°C).
- Read also: health benefits and therapeutic properties of pumpkins, close cousins of butternut
Smart tip about butternut
Take care not to let too many fruits develop on a single plant (at most 5 or 6), or you risk reducing the quality of the overall harvest.
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Growing Butternut under Pixabay license
Young butternut by Alyse under © CC BY 2.0
Harvesting butternut by Ulricke Leone under Pixabay license