Everyone Loves Butternut
It’s worth allocating some space and time to this melt-in-the-mouth veggie
Although butternuts, like pumpkins, take up more space than other veggies, they are easy to grow and very rewarding, which makes them ideal for beginners. And if you’re still hesitant to sacrifice space on the ground for them, why not grow them vertically? They can easily be grown on a fence or trellis, or up a pole so they can clamber on top of a carport, or some such structure. Have no fear that the butternut fruit will snap off – the plant will ensure that the stems attaching them to the vine are strong enough to allow the fruit to dangle attractively in the air. That’s another bonus! Bees pollinate the male and female flowers, so steer clear of any harmful insecticides. Feed with a general fertiliser once a month, but not too close to the roots or it will burn them. Although the fruit can take more than 100 days to mature, it’s worth the wait.
- Being a long-season crop, butternut requires well-composted, fertile soil that drains well.
- Choose a spot that gets full sun for most of the day.
- Water the soil and not the leaves, to avoid diseases like mildew. Don’t handle plants when they are wet.
- Once the vines have grown about 6-7m, pinch off the growing tips to encourage fruit-bearing side shoots.
- By mid-summer, a plant will have set all the fruit that can mature before winter, so remove all remaining flowers to allow the plant to put its energy into ripening the crop.
- Keep maturing fruit off the soil by putting a board, mulch or a rock under the fruit.
- Harvest when the skins have lost their shine and are a rich colour. Pick with 5cm of stalk so that there is no entry point for fungus to develop when storing.
Butternuts have such lovely shapes, and make perfect ‘vases’ for simple arrangements. Choose butternuts that are shaped in such a way that they will not topple over when they are standing on their bases. Cut off their tops and scoop out as much of the flesh as you can, using an apple corer. (Use the flesh to make soup.) Fill the hollowed-out butternuts with water and place a few flowers in each.