When To Harvest Squash

Some crops, such as leaf lettuce, have a short seed-to-harvest time in your home garden. Winter squash is a prime example, as they require an entire season to grow.

The wait is worth it, considering you can get ten fruits per plant, depending on the type of winter squash.

Although you can find bush-type squash varieties, you’ll find ones you can grow in small areas or containers, which still deliver a decent harvest.

The key to success comes down to when to pick squash. You’ll find this vital, as you’ll have more fruit than you can eat come harvest time at the end of a long growing season.

In our guide, you can learn when is the best time to harvest squash regardless of variety.

squash fruits

By the end, you’ll know when to pick yellow squash, when to harvest zucchini, and best of all, how vital the ripening process is to make your fruit last up to six months. (Learn How To Tell If Yellow Squash Is Bad)

How Do You Know When Squash Is Ready To Be Picked?

The time for harvest will vary depending on the type of squash you have. Here you can find the best times for harvest between summer and winter squash, vine, and bush varieties. Drought, wet soil, and unusually cold or hot weather can also affect growing fruit.

Press your fingernail onto the flesh. If it is hard to penetrate the skin, the squash is ripe. If it’s easy, the squash is immature. Pumpkins or others will also be a deep orange when ready, although you can find many colors in other winter squash.

The skin will be firm, with rich color, no blemishes, cracks, or soft spots. Often, you see the light green stripes that eventually darken and fade as the fruit matures.

When harvesting summer squash, use a sharp knife to cut fruit from the vine and leave a short stem attached to the fruit to help extend storage life.

  • Refrigerate summer squash using a perforated plastic bag and also in the vegetable crisper.
  • Refrigerate summer squash for only 4 days.
  • Avoid keeping summer squash below 50°F (10°C); chilling injury signs include surface pitting, water loss, yellowing, and rotting.

You will find storing winter squash is far different from storing summer squash, as you can have summer squash all summer long.

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What Month Do You Harvest Squash?

Summer and winter squashes. Despite their names, both are summer crops. Summer and winter squash grow at different times and store differently.

Harvesting Summer Squash

Summer squash is best while it is little, as it loses flavor as it grows larger and becomes rough and flavorless. Summer squash is past its peak when the peel becomes too hard to scratch with a fingernail and should be thrown or placed to the compost pile.

Summer squash is ideal when it is small, about 5 to 8 inches in diameter for zucchini and somewhat smaller for yellow crookneck squash.

It is soft when a scalloped squash, such as pattypan, is just turning a creamy white hue and measures less than 4 inches in diameter.

Because squash develops quickly after flowers appear, check the plants frequently and harvest three to four times per week.

To harvest summer squash, cut the squash and a short stem from the plant with a knife or pruners. Wear gloves since the vines of some squash varieties are thorny. (Learn How To Tell When Butternut Squash Is Ripe)

winter squash

Harvesting Winter Squash

Winter squash will be planted in the spring yet takes longer to mature from 75 to 120 days based on variety.

Mature winter squash is collected when the rinds are firm, the color is equally dull, and the fruit is fully grown, unlike summer squash. Unlike summer squash, which grows on bushes, and as the squash ripens, most winter squash grows on vines and is harvested simultaneously–usually in the late summer or before the first frost in the fall.

When harvesting squash off the vine, use a sharp knife or pruners, keeping about 2 inches of stem intact. To avoid dislodging the stem, do not tug the squash.

Should you accidentally remove the stem, it can reduce storage time and expose the squash to bruising and deterioration. Refrigerate stemless squash and eat it within a few days.

How Big Should Squash Be Before You Pick It?

Winter Squash Harvest

Squash will be harvested in the fall when sown in the spring. The maturity days of winter squash vary, and you usually pick when fully mature. However, waiting until the vines die back yields a sweeter squash, around 55 days after fruit set.

If you have large squash that goes to seed, it shows the life cycle is ending, so it is time to harvest.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash takes 110-120 days to mature from the planting time. The sweet-tasting squash is ready when the outer rind becomes beige, and a fingernail cannot penetrate it. When the butternut squash is ripe, the stem tips dry off and turn brown. The vine no longer needs to feed the fruit, and the squash is ready to pick.

Cut off the vine using garden shears, leaving a few inches of squash stems, as cutting too close to the squash allows bacteria in. (Read Yellow Spots On Squash Leaves – What to Do)

Acorn Squash

The acorn squash stays green on the vine. Most types will be ready to harvest 75-100 days after planting. Acorn squash matures to a light green tint with a vivid orange splotch on the ground.

The skin’s hardness determines ripeness. Pick an acorn squash when the color is perfect, and a fingernail can’t puncture the skin. Remove the vine, leaving about 2 inches of stem attached to the squash to prevent bacterial growth.

Spaghetti Squash

Harvest spaghetti squash 90-100 days after seeding. Pick this squash when it gets golden yellow or dark yellowish.

Squash skin is tough and can’t be punctured with a fingernail. Leave 2 inches of vine attached to prevent bacterial invasion.

After battling squash bugs and squash vine borers, gardeners can harvest immature fruit before the first frost. Pick immature fruit and ripen them inside. Here are some suggestions:

Rinse off any debris and dry the spaghetti squash entirely. Put your squash in the sun, green side up.

Only mature squash can be ripened from the vine, and your green spaghetti squash will be ripe once it becomes yellow. Use spaghetti squash ripened indoors first, as they will perish faster than those ripened on the vine.

Kabocha Squash

The Kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) matures around 85-95 days after planting the seeds.

The exterior skin of this sweet squash matures from dark green to grayish-green with orange markings. After harvest, the Kabocha squash needs 45 days to ripen and cure thoroughly.

Summer Squash Harvest

zucchini

Zucchini

Some zucchini cultivars are best eaten about 6-8 inches long, while you can eat others up to 1 foot long. With adequate water, these can double in size every couple of days.

The zucchini should be dark and solid before harvesting. Cut the zucchini off the plant with a sharp knife or shears. You can make healthy zucchini bread with any excess, or you can store them in the freezer for up to three months.

To freeze zucchini for bread and soups, peel, slice, or cube the fruit, blanch it in a wire basket in a big kettle of quickly boiling water for three minutes, then cool it into ice water.

Yellow Squash

Yellow squash has a harvest length of 4-7 inches and a diameter of 3-5 inches. Pick young fruit every day, but don’t pluck squash from the plant. Use a sharp knife or shears to harvest squash.

Pattypan Squash

Pattypan (scalloped) squash matures about 45-70 days. Every two days, look for ripe squash. Pattypan squash is ready to harvest when the peel is easily scratched. Squash can be eaten when it is 2-4 inches in diameter.

When choosing any squash type, you’ll see the days to maturity listed on the seed packet.

What Happens If You Pick Squash too Early?

When it’s time to harvest butternut squash, the easiest method to detect if it’s ready to be picked is to look at it.

The texture will be too stiff, and the sugars will not have developed if you select them too early. If you wait too long to harvest the squash, it will get mushy.

Butternut squash has green vertical lines and as they mature the lines vanish, and the rind changes color from pale orange to brown, depending on the type.

Harvest butternut squash by cutting it from the vine with shears, leaving an inch of stem attached. Using a moist towel, wipe the dirt from the squash.

For several months, you can store butternut squash in a cool, dark spot like a basement or root cellar. For the best storage life, aim for growing butternut squash and other winter squash varieties on the vine until fully ripe.

To avoid blossom end rot, cut the stem from the vine with a knife or hand pruners, preserving it with the fruit. Fruit should be handled with care because bruising or brown spots impair shelf life.

If you’re still unclear about when to select the fruit, don’t worry. Most winter squash types mature quickly after harvest. Even bright green pumpkins will turn orange with age, but they will not last long.

In the weeks and months following harvest, winter squash gradually converts starch to sugars, increasing their attraction to our taste buds.

After a couple of heavy frosts, harvest winter squash grows sweeter, but if temperatures drop into the high 20s, harvest and cure them indoors (-5 C).

Acorn squash can be preserved for up to two months after harvesting. If they turn yellow, use them as soon as possible since they will lose their sweetness and flavor. (Learn What Does Zucchini Look Like)

However, overripe yellow varieties with a hard rind and large squash seeds can affect the flavor.

Cure winter squash

Although your freshly harvested winter squash may appear to be ready to eat, most types need to be cured first to gain maximum flavor and sweetness.

After one to two months of storage in a dark place with good air circulation, butternut squash, for example, acquires its peak flavor. You can eat small-fruited varieties like Delicata, Acorn, and Spaghetti immediately.

Curing is a simple technique that intensifies the flavor and thickens the skins, extending the shelf life. Harvest winter squash that has been properly cured, and you can store squash for three to six months, with certain varieties keeping its quality for up to a year.

You can find among many growing tips; you can eat squash flowers; however, ensure you only harvest enough male flowers as you need some for pollination of the female flowers.

When To Harvest Squash (2)

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