There are good reasons why gardeners grow more butternuts than other types of winter squash. The vines resist attack by squash vine borers, a common insect pest in North America, and storing butternut squash is easy, too. Simply cure the mature squash in a warm place for a few weeks, and then move them to a cool, dry spot to stay until they are gone. There is no hurry, because a perfect butternut will keep for at least six months, and sometimes longer.
Many gardeners also say that butternuts are their favorite winter squash to eat, because the flesh is moist and a darker shade of orange compared to most other types. However, there is disagreement on how to cut butternut squash, and some lack of clarity on how to peel butternut squash, too. Using three small specimens that had landed hard when I dropped them and were therefore unfit for storage, I checked out various recommended ways to cut and peel butternut squash.
How to Cut Butternut Squash
Depending on the dish you have in mind, you will cut a butternut into halves for roasting and/or stuffing, or you will want cubes for roasting or making into soup. Cutting a butternut into halves is easy. Use a sharp knife to cut off both ends, and then stand the squash on the flat bottom end. Slice it in half from the top down, and use a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds.
The most efficient way to cut butternut squash into cubes is to peel the raw squash first, using a vegetable peeler. Peeling butternut squash with a peeler is easier than using a knife, because the peeler cuts at just the right depth, and adjusts to squash’s curved surfaces better than a stiff knife. If you first cut off the bottom of the squash, you can hook your peeler over the cut edge and then pull it towards you, which should remove a long ribbon of rind.
As a reality check, I timed how long it took me to peel and cut butternut squash using a peeler or knife, because a sharp knife works well with squash that have thick, straight necks, or so I thought. In addition to being slow compared a peeler, the knife created more waste because more bits of usable flesh ended up in the compost bucket.
Another directive on how to cut butternut squash I have seen on the internet, using the microwave, was a disaster. The procedure involves cutting off both ends of the squash, poking the rind in several places with a fork, and microwaving it for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on size. When the squash is cool enough to handle, theoretically it should peel like a dream, only it doesn’t. The semi-steamed rind sticks to the flesh instead of coming away easily, which makes quite a mess and had no benefit I could discern.
More Tips for Peeling Butternut Squash
When a bug bites into a butternut rind, it is quickly deterred by a gush of latex-like substances, which work like bitter glue. The amount and concentration of these plastic-y fluids varies from one squash to another, but cutting and peeling butternut squash can leave your hands coated with a thin, glue-like substance that won’t wash or rub off, and the yellowish flakes look like a strange skin disease. The best way to remove squash residue from your hands is to use pieces of clear packing tape to strip it off. The only other thing that works is time.