Butternut pumpkins have an unusual bell shape and orange flesh that is sweeter and nuttier than other pumpkins which is why it is so popular. Like other pumpkins, butternuts grow on a vine which spreads across the ground or climbs up a trellis and has large, flat green leaves which help give them some shade.
All pumpkins are very easy to grow providing they have lots of space and because they can be stored for months before eating, it doesn’t matter if you end up with too many.
Choose a spot in the garden where there is lots of space and that gets at least 6 hours of sun every day. It can even be behind the shed or in a forgotten part of the garden as pumpkins don’t need a lot of attention as they grow.
Prepare the garden bed by removing any weeds and piling up a mound of compost that is about 100cm wide and 30cm high. Plant one seedling on each side of them mound and give them a light water. The vine will ramble all over the mound.
Butternut pumpkins can be grown in a container but it needs to be very large such as a barrel, small bath or the bowl out of an old washing machine. Fill these with premium potting mix and plant just one or two seedlings in each one. Build a trellis for the vine to climb up or make sure there’s lots of space around the container for the vine to spill out onto. Keep the soil moist.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Butternuts like to have the soil kept damp which is not a big problem in winter but if there isn’t any rain, give them some water every day. If lots of compost was added when they were first planted, they won’t need any fertilising but they will always love more compost if it is given to them. If there’s not much space on the ground, build a strong trellis for the vine to grow over.
Butternut pumpkins can take several months to mature but they will show that they are ready to harvest when the stalk near the pumpkin withers and almost breaks. At this stage, test the pumpkin by tapping on it to see if it sounds hollow. At this stage, cut the stalk making sure that about 5cm stays attached as this will stop it from rotting. The butternut can be cooked straight away but if you want to store it, let it sit in the sun for a week to harden and then store it in a cool, dark place such as the garden shed where it will last for about six months.
HOW TO EAT
Butternuts are one of the best pumpkins to roast but they can also be boiled and mashed with a touch of butter, salt and pepper. Pumpkin soup is also delicious and really easy to cook and pumpkin scones are an Australian tradition that everyone should try at least once!
There are lots of recipes for butternut pumpkins in the Smarty Plants Kitchen.
HOW THEY GROW
Butternut vines creep along the ground or up a trellis or fence. Their large leaves often make it tricky to see the yellow flowers that form underneath. The flowers are pollinated by bees and insects that carry pollen from the male flower to the female flower which then starts to form the butternuts. These grow slowly and their skin colour becomes a pale brown colour. When the butternut is ready to harvest, the stem attached to it will shrivel up and dry.
Botanical Name: Cucurbita moschata
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Grow: Spring, summer and autumn
Height/Width: The pumpkin vine can spread to cover an area of around 100cm x 100cm and 40cm high.
Requirements: Plant in full sun and water every day.
Nutritional Benefits: Helps fight cancer and is very high in vitamin E.