My name is Hayley Moisley I am 24 and have a passion for growing your own. I work at VegTrug, a company that is passionate about making GYO available to everyone. People sometimes think it a bit strange and I often get asked “shouldn’t I be out having fun”. Believe me, this gives me enormous pleasure and it becomes a bit addictive, so be warned! This is my first blog and I am an amateur allotmenteer. I hope to share with you my journey and experiences.
Butternuts are one of the first veggies I grew, getting me completely hooked! The first year I grew them in pots (it is possible) with them dotted around my parents garden. It was at that point I realised my hobby needed its own space so I went on the allotment waiting list…and the rest is history.
Sowing seeds in 9cm pots indoors is the simplest method, the germination ratio is pretty good with the majority coming up. Some say to pre soak the seeds which is all well and good if you have time, but I don’t!
The most common stumbling block for growers is getting the fruits to set. Some years I’ve had loads of early female flowers but frustratingly no males. I’ve even sneaked onto my neighbours plot with a paintbrush to steal some of their male pollen (sorry Anne). Other years I’ve had lots of flowers of both but the pollinating insects must have taken a holiday!
To ensure the fruit sets, use a paintbrush or cut off the whole male flower and rub it on the female stigma. Its quite easy to identify the male and female flowers, females will have the fruit starting to develop behind the flower. Also they have different “bits”, much like us humans!
Each plant will produce around 4 fruits, any more and the plant won’t be able to put its energy into ripening them all, cutting of vines and flowers will help redirect its energy. By the end of summer, the squashes will be at full size and have begun the process of changing colour. I prune any leaves that shadow the fruits, allowing the sun in, hardening the skins giving you a longer storage life.
Last year before the first frost, I harvested 40 kilos of butternuts from 12 plants which kept us going all the way through to April. After harvest I left them on a window sill for a week to cure, then I individually wrapped each butternut in a few sheets of newspaper and layered them in crates. The crates were placed in the cool garage but a shed or even a cool spare room would work. Checking them every month for signs of mould meant I had a continuous supply!
Butternuts are really versatile in cooking, having them as the main event roasted and stuffed, soup for lunch or my favourite, butternut squash curry, perfect for a chilly winter evening! The seeds are normally scooped out and chucked away but I’ve come up with the simplest, yummiest solution!
Seeds taken from 1 butternut, stringy flesh removed
1tbs cayenne pepper
1tsp curry powder
1tbs olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place all of the ingredients in a baking tray, with your hands or spoon (you may get yellow hands from the turmeric) mix and coat all the seeds spreading them out so they are one layer. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until crispy.
These are perfect as an alternative to snack treats or a crunchy topping for soup or salads. Enjoy!