What to Do with Not-Quite-Ripe Winter Squash? Recipes Included

My ‘Honeynut’ winter squash got a late start in the garden this year, and that, coupled with our cold, wet fall, left me with a big pile of not-quite-ripe squash. It’s not that the squash are not ripe enough to eat—although some are pretty green—they are just not ripe enough to store over a long period.

Butternut squash is the only winter squash I grow in my small urban garden, and Honeynut is by far my favorite variety. The plants sprawl like other squash, but they are extremely productive and the fruits are delicious. In the past, I’ve followed standard squash procedure, curing them outside on warm fall days, and then storing them for a few months in a cool spot in the basement. (My experience is that well-cured, ripe squash will keep until mid-January in a typical, unfinished basement in Minnesota. After that, it’s time to cook it off.)

But what to do with squash that is not ripe? You can continue to ripen unripe squash by bringing them inside, washing them off and putting them in a sunny spot. You watch them carefully, turning them occasionally until they reach the proper color for eating. About 10 of my unripe squash are currently taking the indoor sun cure. I will report later how they do.


squash on table
Not-quite-ripe squash bask in the indoor sun.

Three of the squash had some knicks in them, so they will be used in my fall mum pot for Halloween.

The rest I decided to cook. (Two recipes follow)

Roasted Honeynut Squash Half-Moons

Turn the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut off the tops and bottoms of a squash, then peel it and remove the seeds. Cut it in half and cut the halves into slices. (Mine are about 1/4 of an inch thick, but would have been better thinner.) Place the halves in a single layer on a sheet pan and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over it. Move the slices around to coat. Add a generous shake of salt and pepper. Slide the pan into the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Squash is not as dry as potatoes, for example, so it may be a bit mushy. An alternative would be to cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and roast it that way. Thinner slices will dry and crisp more and taste more chip-like.

Steaming the Squash and Muffins!

squash muffins on plate
The finished muffins.

The rest of the squash I steamed so it could be easily mashed and frozen. To steam it, I set a steamer rack in a large soup pot with an inch or two of water in it. I cut the squash into halves, leaving the skin on. Set the halves on the rack (about 2 squash per batch) and cover the pot. Steam for 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. You want to squash to be soft when you stick a fork in it so it can be easily mashed. Once cool, I packed the squash into quart size bags, two cups per bag. I flattened the bags on a cookie tray so they would freeze in an easy to store shape. Squash is a nutritious replacement for potatoes and a great addition to fall sweets.

Butternut squash are just one step away from pumpkin so I decided to make a batch of muffins with some of the steamed squash.

Honeynut Squash Muffins

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners or spray with nonstick spray.

Mixed together with a whisk:

2 cups all-purpose flour, unbleached

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Set aside, and in a large bowl mix together:

2 eggs

1/4 cup canola oil (or melted butter)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups mashed squash (or pumpkin)

Whisk the wet ingredients until thoroughly mixed. I use an immersion blender to make sure the squash strings and bits are incorporated. Then gently add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to blend. (You could also add a half cup or so of raisins, chocolate chips or nuts at this point. I went plain.) Divide the mixture evenly among the 12 muffin cups and bake in the center of the oven for 18-22 minutes. These are not super sweet muffins, so if you like a bit more sweetness consider adding the raisins or even frosting the muffins.

Enjoy!