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Growing Red Kuri Winter Squash

We’re experimental gardeners and this is our first season growing red kuri winter squash.

Last week we were really excited to see the Red Kuri winter squash had gone kind of crazy. Good crazy, with the vines all over the shade cloth covering the wire arch. The squash fruit looked to be maturing well. 

Young Red Kuri squash on the vine – growing on shade cloth.

Thriving on Compost Tea

They received a shot of comfrey tea earlier as a booster. So, with that plus the added heat of the black shade cloth, the kuri is loving its vertical growing environment on top of a cattle panel tunnel.

What is Red Kuri Winter Squash

The Red Kuri winter squash, (Japanese “Hokkaido”), is an easy growing traditional vegetable from the Kanazawa region of western Japan. The kuri squash grows from bright yellow to a beautiful red-orange color that matures into 5-8 pound fruits with golden flesh, that is smooth, dry, sweet, and rich.1)

A video from our favorite seed supplier, mentioned its easy, fast-growing habits make it a great candidate for the fall garden when planted in August. 

And indeed it has come along quite well. 

Our Red Kuri squash turning red!

How does Red Kuri Winter Squash Taste?

The thin-skinned winter squash has a chestnutty flavor that goes well in soups, pies, and is often roasted like the more common butternut.  You can even sauté Red Kuri squash with the skin intact.

We’re so looking forward to trying our own Red Kuri. Yes, indeed. 

An Attack on the Winter Squash

However… just two days after we sent out an email extolling our apparent success in bypassing the borers and squash bugs, we spotted some worms making trouble on our biggest nicest squash. Yikes!

A quick bit of on-line research led to identifying the culprits as pickle worms. Not pretty! 

a Pickle Worm – destroying our squash! 🙁

BCT (Bacillus thuringiensis) to the RESCUE

So we immediately started a daily dose of liquid BCT and it seems to be helping. Several dead worms have been discovered on the surface of a few of the squash. We’ll keep this up on a daily basis and hope it‘s not too late.

For those curious about the pickle worms, here’s a good reference. We see from this link, that spraying BCT is discouraged, but we are streaming the material into the holes and have seen the little worms back out and die. 

The squash that remain under our care have doubled in size and are beginning to turn orange. Perhaps we can salvage a few. Again, time will tell. 

UPDATE: Indeed… we were able to save the squash as you will read below.

Hoping for the Best

Whatever the outcome, Red Kuri is definitely a squash worth growing. We’ll know next year to do some preventative coverage with row cover fabric and pre-emptive doses of BCT. 

Our saga of the Red Kuri remains in suspense. If you’ve had any experience with growing this particular type of winter squash… or any tips to foil pickle worms, please, do let us know.

How to Get Rid of Pickle Worm!

When we first discovered pickle worms boring into the red kuri squash it was most discouraging. We thought we’d lose them in the same way we’ve lost our other squash to vine borers.

If these pests take hold, they can completely devastate cucumbers, melons, squash, and other cucurbits. According to our on-line research it appeared that not much could fend them off.  

Rather than give up, we developed a treatment regimen for pickle worms that has worked! YAY!!

Natural Remedy for Pickle Worm



  1. Follow the label instructions for quantities as concentrates vary.
  2. Mix in your garden sprayer – ours is battery powered and you can read about that here, or see it directly on Amazon.
  3. Agitate the mixture as you spray to keep it stirred as the powder tends to settle.
  4. Spray stream into every hole
  5. Repeat on a regular weekly basis and after rains. 

Using BCT and Kaolin Clay, we salvaged about 85% of our squash crop from pickle worm damage.

Thanks to this successful treatments, we’ve been able to enjoy the delicious red kuri in some of our favorite winter squash recipes, such as gypsy soup.

Red kuri squash is delicious, rich and sweet and can be a substitute for butternut squash.

Wishing you great gardens and happy harvests!


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