To preserve many foods, you have to do a crazy water-bath dance in the heat of late August, or give over to acid-ravaged hands as you chop another ten pounds of tomatoes.
Winter squash is easier. Like Goldilocks, all it asks is to be tucked away someplace not too hot, and not too cold, but just right. Some varieties of winter squash, like Butternut, will store for dang near a year if conditions are perfect. Even the relatively short-lived Delicatas can be counted on to get to New Year’s in good shape if kept in Goldilocks conditions.
So what is good storage practice for winter squash? They will hold the longest at 55°F and 60% relative humidity. The higher the temperature, the faster the squash will lose weight and moisture from respiration. Temperatures below 50°F risk cold damage to the squash, which will shorten storage lifespan.
This is why the winter squash that were making such a nice, though unlooked for, autumn-scape at my front door have had to be moved into the garage for long-term storage. Even protected by the house, I was risking outside temperature drops that could ruin my squash.
My garage is unheated but never freezes, so it’s about as good a spot as I have for storing winter squashes. Other good storage spots might be a drafty back room or an unheated attic or basement. My neighbor stores hers just inside the front door, on a little landing area before the split-level stairs. The front door is drafty enough, and the landing far enough from any heater vent, that conditions in that one spot are pretty good!
Before I put them away on the industrial post and wire shelving out in the garage, I wipe down each of my squashes with a dilute solution of bleach to kill the fungal and mold spores that are almost certainly living on the squash’s surface. If I were measuring, I’d go with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, but usually I just fill up my sink and glug in a bit of unscented Clorox.
I know some of my gentler readers are not fans of bleach, and if I were avoiding bleach, I’d probably do a hydrogen peroxide or full-strength white vinegar wipe down to achieve a similar mold and fungus-killing effect. After sanitizing the squash, I set them to dry on clean absorbant towels. It is very important that the squashes are dry when they go into storage, and stay that way.
Small squashes get wrapped in plain paper and stored in cardboard boxes. (Really good squashes get stored in Maker’s Mark boxes.)
I store large squashes directly on cardboard and make sure to leave good air circulation around each squash.