What is going on with butternut squashes?

Let me bring up something that’s really puzzling me.

I love butternut squashes. I make holiday pies with them because they are much better than pumpkin. Also, I like to roast them, & then mix in asiago cheese and roasted garlic for a side dish with dinner.

When squeezing the juice of a roasted squash out through cheesecloth (to make pie), I would always wind up with bright orange-stained hands, & stained cheesecloth, from all the beta-carotene. One squash could easily make 2 or 3 pies because the flesh was so dense and intensely flavorful.

Starting last year, butternuts are completely different. The flesh is watery and pale, like a summer squash. It has almost no flavor at all. One squash, of the same size as before, barely makes one pie.

Is this happening anywhere else? (I’m in California.) I figure that either:

a) the squashes are getting crossed with other cucurbitae, which every gardener knows they will readily do, or

b) farmers for some reason have chosen to plant a different variety recently; maybe it ripens earlier or is rot-resistant or uses less water, or

c) they are being grown in soil depleted of something vital to their butternut-ness.

However, in an online conversation I once had with a squash farmer, I was told that growers rent bees to pollinate the squash, and they tent-over each variety separately one at a time so that the bees can’t cross-pollinate.

I don’t know – anyone have a WAG?

I’ve purchased both good and watery/tasteless butternut this year. There seems to be no way to tell the difference from the outside.
I’ll WAG that the same weather that ruined the pumpkin crop also did a number on the quality of butternuts.

I use a potato ricer for that. It’s a lot easier, quicker and neater than cheese cloth or, god forbid, the Victorio strainer.
The best ones may be had for about $5.00 at an antique/junk/Goodwill store

Start by asking your local grocer. Or, your state college should have an agricultural department that may help you. Last, I’d bet you could Google-up a board of squash growers. In the least, a farming board. I believe each state has a farm bureau…

I wasn’t expecting responses so quickly!

Squink: I didn’t think that it was likely to be connected to the pumpkin crop problems, until I poked around a little more and found this.

Here’s the salient point (bolding mine):
"Downy Mildew

Symptoms appear on the foliage as pale-green to yellow, angular spots, with gray-tinged spore masses on the undersides of these spots. Severely infected leaves become chlorotic, turn brown, and shrivel. The fruits are rarely affected directly, but fail to color properly and are usually sunburned and tasteless. Spores are readily wind dispersed. Prior to planting, choose a variety with resistance to this disease. Consult with the UF IFAS Cooperative Extension Service for recommended fungicides. See Plant Pathology Fact Sheet PP-2: “Downy Mildew of Cucurbits” (http://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/takextpub/FactSheets/pp0002.pdf)."*

So you may well be right. By the way, I don’t use the cheesecloth to rice the squash; I use it to remove nearly all the fluid from the flesh so that you get a dryish paste which you then thin out again with half and half. :slight_smile:

That’s the way I was taught to process squash for pies. (The juice you get, with a little sugar and ice, is marvellous to drink.)

Jinx: Good idea! I’m off to do that too.

Just as another data point: all the butternuts I’ve purchased this season have been from local farmers, and they’ve all been delicious. If it is a new variety that’s been planted in recent years, you might have better luck acquiring your squashes from your local farmers’ market.

Since this is also a food questions, let’s move it to Cafe Society for their answers.

samclem Moderator, General Questions

To echo MikeS, I had two (organic) butternut squash from our farm share and they were delicious, flavorful, bright orange and everything you’d want a butternut to be. The two butternut I’ve bought in a supermarket have been sad, horrible, pale imitators of squashness. The origin of those squash is unknown but they were bought at a large regional market that ships stuff all over and buys from large retail-based farm concerns, not small local guys.