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Curing Winter Squash

February 11th, 2015

Several of you asked yesterday about how to cure winter squash so it would store for many months. First off you need to start with the right kind of squash. Different varieties of squash will store for different lengths of time. In general acorn, delicata and spaghetti squash will store for a few weeks to a month, winter squash and pumpkin will store for 4-6 months, butternuts will store the longest up to a year. I have stored squash for 18 months with success. In fact I cooked a pumpkin from last year just before I harvested my crop from this past season.
squash harvest 5
Squash must be cured if you want them to last a long time in storage. It’s fairly simple, just store them unwashed in a warm sunny place for 2 weeks. A greenhouse works well, as does a warm back porch. I like to put mine on the back porch which gets the afternoon sun and stays nice and warm.
squash harvest 1
Store squash in a cool area of the house, generally between 50-60 degrees works best. Squash are not like potatoes, apples, and other vegetables, they appreciate warmth. Make sure they have good air movement. My squash are often laid out in a corner of a cool bedroom and they store very nicely. I have also simply kept them in a corner of the dining room.
stack of pumpkins
There are a few other things you can do to ensure your winter squash will store for ages.

First, make sure they are ripe at harvest. They have a long growing season, select varieties that will ripen in the amount of time you have. Those of us that live in shorter season areas should select shorter season squash. Most seed companies will give you length till harvest, use these as a guide. Allow the vines to start to die and the skins to toughen before harvesting.

Second, cut, don’t rip the squash from the vines. You want to leave a nice piece of stem on the squash to help protect them. Avoid carrying your squash by the stem to make sure they remain attached.

Third, harvest squash before frost. Squash that has been left in the garden during a frost will not store as long as those harvested earlier.

Fourth, do not water or manure too much. Squash that was overwatered or over fertilized will not store as long. Feed and water them, but don’t get carried away. It’s better to have smaller squash that store longer.

There you have it, a few tips to keep your winter squash fresh in the pantry all winter long.

Do you have any tips to share on growing, curing, and storing winter squash?

Potting up Peppers

November 19th, 2014

I harvested all my peppers almost two months ago, they’ve been living in containers on the back porch. This time of year my back porch is like a walk in cooler, it keeps things fresh forever. We’ve been eating fresh peppers almost daily. The time had come for the rest of them to go into the freezer.
picking peppers 2
freezing peppers 3
So I chopped, and chopped, and chopped some more. I fried, and fried, and fired some more. Pretty soon all the peppers were prepped and ready to be saved for eating this winter.
freezing peppers 2
freezing peppers 1
I ended up with a nice little stockpile of peppers to enjoy this winter. No doubt they’ll be enjoyed in omelets, on pizza, and in fajitas.

What are you preserving from the garden this week?

Savory Sage

November 13th, 2014

All summer and fall you’ll find various herbs drying on my sunny back porch or in my oven. Right now I have an oven full of sage leaves drying for Thanksgiving and delicious winter soups.
drying sage
Throughout the summer I eat the young tender leaves fried in butter. Not only do I get a delicious snack, but then I have sage brown butter to drizzle over pasta or soup.
fried sage leaves
Sage is probably one of my favorite herbs, particularly in winter. It pairs so well with winter squash, pork, and other poultry. And who can resist savory sage stuffing at Thanksgiving with lots of onions and celery?

What’s your favorite winter herb?

Bringing in the Sheaves (or braids)

October 11th, 2014

Yesterday I started bringing in the onion crop. They have been drying in the top of the garage for a month or so. This year they were harvested a bit later than last, they didn’t get blown over like they did last year. The results were much larger onions, which I’m pretty happy about.
onion braids 1
I only braid the smaller onions, the big ones are put into wooden boxes in a single layer and stowed away in the basement where it’s nice and cool. Usually they last through early June of the following year, just in time for spring onions and small fresh onions. This is my best onion harvest so far, I’m guessing I harvested around a hundred and fifty pounds of onions.
onion braids 2
Onions are one of my favorite crops to grow, I love nurturing them from tiny seeds. Perhaps I love growing them so much because I really love eating them. Pretty much every meal around here begins with the chopping of an onion!

What’s your favorite crop to grow?

Picking Pecks of Peppers

September 25th, 2014

This year I had a bumper pepper harvest. I could have left them on the plants longer, but I wanted to clear out that spot in the garden to move the strawberries. Thus I ended up picking mountains of peppers. Most of them will be roasted over a fire and canned, some will be stuffed and frozen (here’s my recipe if you’re interested).
picking peppers 2
Some of them were given to neighbors, others have already been used for delicious meals. There are still a good many to process, looks like I’ll be busy tonight!
picking peppers 1
The small peppers are the Mini Bells I talked about last week, I’m thinking I’ll make mass quantities of bite sized peppers stuffed with sausage, onions, garlic, herbs and cheese. I made a batch of ricotta earlier this week just for them. I think popping a few of these beauties out of the freezer for a quick breakfast or dinner will be so convenient.

Do you like green peppers? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.