Harvesting & Storing Winter Squash

by Catherine Haug

Jean H. sent me this link from the Examiner.com: How to tell when squash is ripe & ready to harvest, by Lisa Greene. Excellent article; I recommend bookmarking this one. There are links to similar articles for other vegetables as well.

Here’s the bottom line:

Winter squash reaches maturity, on average, 100 days after sowing; but each variety has different signs of ripeness. Instead of using the fingernail test on the skin (which can open the door for disease and rot to enter the fruit), the author recommends the following tips, by variety:

When is it ripe?

From the examiner.com article:

  • Butternut squash changes from light beige to a deep tan color when it’s ripe. The optimal size is 8 to 12 inches in length.
  • Acorn squash (and certain other types) have areas that develop an orange tone. Particular to the acorn squash is the yellow spot that faces the ground which turns orange when the squash is ready to pick. Acorn squash also changes from a shiny dark green to a duller tone of green.
  • Hubbard squash is a  very large winter squash that measures about 12 inches in diameter and can be very heavy. Hubbard squash feels rock hard and doesn’t give at all when the outer shell is pressed.
  • Spaghetti squash is bright yellow when it’s mature, which is a stark difference to the creamy white color while it is immature. Like the butternut, spaghetti squash should be between 8 and 12 inches in length.

How to harvest:

From the same article:

  • Like most melons, you’ll want to cut the squash off the vine.
  • Leave at least two inches of stem (5 cm) attached. This will help with extending storage time.
  • Harvest all winter squash after a light frost kills the vine.
  • Leave the squash on the vines to cure for 10 days to 2 weeks and cover at night if more frost is predicted. Letting the fruit cure will help to sweeten the flesh and make the shell better for storing.
  • If heavy frost is predicted, either cover the plants or harvest everything. Anything more than a light frost will shorten the storage life of the squash
  • Like tomatoes, squash will continue to ripen after picking, however, the flavor won’t be as good.

How to store winter squash

From the same article:

  • Once the squash is harvested and ready to store, wipe the skin with a weak bleach solution to help prevent the squash from rotting. 6 parts water to 1 part bleach is a good ratio.
  • Store in a cool and well-ventilated place with a temperature range of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

To which I would add from my own research (from my Winter Storage Chart):

  • Hang in nets, or store on shelf and turn occasionally;
  • Ideal storage condition for winter squash is very dry, about 50% humidity.

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