Dear Farmer Tim,
I am planning on harvesting winter squash with my students, but I am not sure how to know when it’s ready. What can I look for? How do I store it after I harvest, and for how long?
Dear Squash Storer,
Great question! If you haven’t yet had a hard winter frost (which can compromise shelf life) plan to harvest before that takes place. Winter squash are ready to be harvested when you can no longer prick the skin with your thumbnail and the vines have browned and dried up. If a frost is coming before the squash is ready, go ahead and harvest.
When you harvest squash, try using a knife or pruning shears to cut the squash from the vine, leaving 2-3 inches of stem. Be careful not to break the stem, as this can expose the fruit to rot. Next, cure your squash so that the skin can continue to harden. If you’re in a sunny, warm region, you can cure the squash by leaving it in the sun for a few days. Alternatively, bring the squash indoors and store in a warm area.
Once you have harvested and cured your squash, you can go ahead and prepare it for eating or store it for later. All squash should be stored in dry, cool room (but no cooler than 50 degrees). Thinner skinned squash, such as delicata and acorn, should be consumed within 1-2 months. Squash with thick, tough skin, such as butternut, can store for up to four months.
I hope you enjoy these “delica”cies all winter long!
Peas & Gloves,