Butternut squash is a type of pumpkin that has a pear shape and is a light brown or cream in colour, when mature. I began growing after talking with some market traders who told me that the butternut was popular among mothers weaning their children. It is thought to be very nutritious and a good combination with some mashed potatoes or plantain and some greens.
I thus figured that it would be a good plant to venture into as children are born everyday I figured. The butternut are sold per piece according to the size. Although the preference was the not so big ones. For some reason, very big size of farm produce at the local markets is not preferred. I have always wondered why this is so. Some market trader told me the larger sizes are only preferred by hotels and food eateries.
I found that the butternut varieties available weren't that may. I thus chose the one I could find and got to work. I did direct drilling, which is sowing the seed directly where it will grow without planting in a seedbed first. Spacing has to be done right as it is from the pumpkin family and thus they do get a lot of long vines.
I grew mine in the greenhouse tunnel I had as one of the plants in my crop rotation programme. As I had to maximize on space usage, I panted using similar spacing to my tomatoes. From germination, the butternut are not very fussy to grow. Other than water, the only other thing to look out for is fungal infections which affect most of the plants in the curcubit family.
The plant does grow fast and produces a lot of leaves and vines. I did have to prune and remove some of the vines. As I was trying to maximize on the space, the plants had to be trellised. The problem I encountered is that butternut become heavy as they mature. I had to have the fruit on the ground or have support directly beneath them.
The harvest was good and was ready for market in about 3-4 months. I took my produce to market. The first few times my butternut was taken by the market traders. However after 2 or so weeks, the traders took less and less of the butternut. It seems like there was a glut as I was not the only farmer that was producing the butternut. As market became a problem, I sold less and less butternut over that growing season.
The only saving grace of the butternut is that they have a good shelf life. Kept in a cool dry place they can keep for about 3 months. This was the point at which I figured it wasn't a good venture for regular income. I also talked to a farmer who had tried the butternut venture. He told me that he too found that marketing the produce at some point in his production cycle. It seems that it didn't have a very strong demand.
Would I plant it again?
From my own experience plus my talk with the other farmer, I would not grow butternut squash as a commercial endeavour.