There are certain vegetables that are ready to harvest around September and October that you look forward to all year long.
One of the distinguishing vegetables is the humble butternut squash., perfect to roast or put in a wonderfully warming soup.
If you’ve had a butternut squash in the pantry or refrigerator for a while and aren’t sure if it’s okay to eat, there are a few key ways to identify if the vegetable has gone bad.
Here we will talk about the average shelf life of butternut squash as well as list the main indicators of a spoiled squash to help you identify if your food is safe to eat.
What Is A Butternut Squash?
Otherwise known as a ‘winter squash’ this hard-skinned vegetable is a member of the cucumber and pumpkin family.
It is not to be confused with summer squash, such as zucchini or yellow squash as they slightly differ in certain ways.
For example, butternut squash is denser in calories and carbohydrates than yellow squash. But, yellow squash is higher in fat and protein than butternut squash.
In terms of which are better for you, butternut squashes contain a significantly higher amount of vitamins and minerals compared to their yellow counterpart.
What Is The Shelf Life Of A Butternut Squash?
When left whole butternut squash can typically last between one to two months in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or refrigerator drawer.
The thick skin of the squash helps them to stay fresher for longer, which is handy over the winter months.
Other estimations suggest that squash can last longer than this when kept whole and stored in the right conditions, which we will discuss in more detail in this article.
Once the squash has been cut into, you can keep the raw vegetable in the refrigerator for four to five days before it starts to show signs of decay.
Cooked squash can also last between four to five days in the refrigerator.
How To Tell If Butternut Squash Is Bad
There are a few key ways you can tell whether or not butternut squash has gone bad that have been listed here:
One of the first visual indicators that squash has gone bad is the formation of dark spots on the surface of the vegetable.
These are similar to that of an apple that has some type of mold on the skin or inside the fruit.
These spots are soft to the touch and may even feel slimy if you push your finger into the flesh of the vegetable. A fresh squash would have a farm and uniform orange/beige color on the outside.
In some cases, you can cut out the small rotten spots and save the rest of the squash. If there is any liquid leaking out or an abundance of rotten spots, then throw the vegetable in the composter.
A key indicator of whether a food has gone bad or not is the smell. Sometimes you don’t even have to try and figure out if the food is bad as the smell will hit you right away.
Fresh squash won’t have a smell to it at all, so if you start to smell something different and noticeably fouler then you can safely assume the squash is rotten.
Texture is another useful indicator to keep an eye on when it comes to spoiled food. Squash that has been cut in some way and stored in the refrigerator can spoil at any time.
If the pieces of flesh are slimy or appear dehydrated and wrinkled then it has spoiled and you should not eat them.
Although the squash may look nice and firm and fresh on the outside, it still may have rotted on the inside. Cutting into the squash is the only way to know for sure.
If the flesh surrounding the seeds of the squash has darkened in color and become tender and mushy, it indicates the vegetable is starting to rot.
You may cut this out and still eat the rest of the main flesh if you wish.
Everyone knows what mold looks like, so I don’t need to go into too much detail here. If mold is found on the skin or on the flesh of diced squash, then discard the vegetable immediately and do not eat it.
The color of the skin of a whole squash should be uniform beige without any dark blemishes noticeable to indicate that it is fresh and safe to eat.
Any deviations from the usual colors you would expect indicate that the vegetable has started to rot or something else is wrong with it.
Interestingly, you can tell if a butternut squash has lost its freshness from the weight of the vegetable.
When holding up the squash, if it feels slightly light or hollow then this indicates it has gone off as the moisture starts to dry up.
A fresh squash is sturdy and heavy as it is filled with soft flesh full of moisture, helping it to keep its shape.
How To Store A Butternut Squash Correctly
As with many types of food, the way it has been prepared will determine how it should be stored.
Whole, Raw Squash
If you don’t plan on using the vegetable right away, store it in a cool, dark place such as an unheated garage or basement.
Other suitable places include on a countertop away from appliances or in the pantry.
The ideal temperature you’ll want to keep it at is between 50℉ to 55℉.
Cut Or Cooked Squash
Keeping the squash dry and well-ventilated is also important, so make sure to store any cut, chopped or cooked squash in an airtight container. Avoiding storing it in a plastic bag as these tend to trap moisture.
If kept uncovered, avoid storing next to apples or bananas as ripening fruit produces ethylene gas which speeds up the ripening process.
In The Freezer
Store any cooked or uncooked squash in an airtight freezer bag when putting it in the freezer.
We also recommend using a permanent marker to write the date the food went into the freezer to determine how long it will taste good.
Can Squash Be Frozen?
Whole butternut squash can be stored in a freezer for up to three months, after this, the taste will start to deteriorate.
Some suggestions state that squash can be kept in the freezer for up to nine months, so experimentation may be needed to find out whether or not you can taste the difference in the vegetable.
Cooked and pre-cut squash can also be stored in the freezer, but the best way to store squash in this way is to purée the chunks as they hold up well once thawed.
Soups containing squash are good for freezing and should be thoroughly defrosted before being eaten.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Eat Old Butternut Squash?
When a vegetable is a few days past its best before date, they are still okay to eat as long as they have no visible signs of mold or damage.
If you notice mold on the skin or flesh of the squash then it shouldn’t be eaten.
A toxic compound has been known to build up in a rotten squash, known as cucurbitacin E which can cause poisoning.
What Color Should Butternut Squash Be Inside?
A ripe and fresh butternut squash should be deeply orange in color on the inside of the vegetable.
The outside, on the other hand, should be beige in color with no signs of green at all to indicate it is ripe and ready to eat.
All fresh produce goes bad eventually, but some start to decompose quicker than others.
A butternut squash starts to go bad within one to two months of being purchased. There are a variety of factors that can impact this.
Food safety is always important to consider and you should never eat something that you assume to be harmful in any way.
We hope we answered all of your questions regarding the shelf life of butternut squash.
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