During my Winter Vegetable Gardening workshops, I often surprise some of my students when I tell them that winter squash is not grown in the winter. It's grown in the summer, just like summer squashes (Zucchini, Patty Pans, Crooknecks being the ones folks are most familiar with).
Winter squashes are grown in the summer and then are stored for the winter. They all have a tougher, harder rind than summer squashes, making them able to be kept unrefrigerated for long periods of time. Back in the day, people would keep them in their cool, dry root cellars, along with carrots, beets, rutabagas, potatoes and turnips. All of which are able to be kept for quite a while without going bad.
The key for such long-term storage is coolness and dryness. There's no requirement that you need to keep winter squashes in the dark. It just so happens that most root cellars are dark.
No doubt the most widely known winter squash is the pumpkin. You all know that you can keep an uncut pumpkin on your front porch from Halloween to after New Year, as long as you don't get it nicked or too frost-bit. Once that skin has been compromised, then it doesn't take too long for the pumpkin to decompose.
There are hundreds of types of winter squashes. We've been loving these beautiful oblong, striped green and light yellow Delicata squash. Once winter squashes are ripe, which is evident when they've turned their mature color, or when the first tendril closest to the fruit dries up, they are picked and put in the shade to cure. Here are some pretty little potimarrons, Chef's favorite, also known as orange kabocha or kuri. This summer we also grew black kabocha, spaghetti squash, and these huge, gorgeous beauties, Blue Hubbard: