4 Clear Signals Your Acorn Squash Is Ready to Be Harvested (Plus Tips on Storing Them)
The sweet yet nutty flavor of acorn squash appeals to many people. This winter squash falls in the same family as other gourds like spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and kabocha squash. The consistency is so similar that many people alternate with other gourds in their preferred recipes. The only gourd that doesn’t do as well is spaghetti squash.
With almost one-fifth of the daily recommended vitamin A in a single serving, this winter squash comes with substantial health benefits. It reduces the risk of infection, supports the health of multiple organs, and even helps you to see better. It also offers 37% of the vitamin C that your body needs. With so many benefits, you want to make sure that any harvested acorn squash gets the care it requires for long-term use.
Signs of Acorn Squash Readiness
Knowing the right time to harvest your winter squash makes a big difference in flavor, preservation, and even nutritional content. When you harvest the squash, make sure to beat the first frost of the winter. While they aren’t so delicate that a little cold weather hurts them, frost creates damage in the rind. It causes soft spots that deteriorate the gourd before it ever has a chance to be stored. Since this frost often happens at the start of Autumn, watching for the signs of readiness is the easiest way to protect it.
Sign #1 – More Than 80 Days Have Passed
Growing acorn squash requires commitment, so patience is important. Once you plant your squash, proper care still takes 80-100 days before harvesting. It requires less time before it fully ripens than other winter squash. For instance, it takes up to 110 days for butternut squash to be ready for harvest.
If you plan to harvest to store the acorn squash immediately after harvesting it, you should give it a little more time. As the rind hardens, it preserves the flesh inside. You don’t have to rush to remove it from the vine. With the right care and good weather, keeping the squash on the vine for a few more weeks gives the rind even more time. A healthy and hardened rind preserves the food inside.
Sign #2 – It Turns Dark Green
When you check on your acorn squash, don’t harvest it before it turns green. As soon as it becomes green, the acorn squash is ripe. The green is rich and dark, creating a perfect barrier to the outside world.
While the rest of the surface of the acorn squash turns green, the bottom doesn’t. Don’t take this as a sign that the acorn squash isn’t ready. The area that sits on the ground gradually becomes orange, transitioning from its former yellow hue.
Sign #3 – The Rind Hardens
If you see that your acorn squash is now green, the second sign to look for is a hardened rind. The rind is the skin of the squash, and it stays soft through the months of growth. However, as it ripens, the rind goes from soft to hard to protect the soft squash inside.
Sign #4 – The Stem Withers
As acorn squash grows, all of its nutrients come from the stem that supports it. If the acorn squash no longer needs this nourishment to grow, the stem starts to wither. This sign is the perfect indication that you waited long enough to harvest. Get out your shears and cut the stem a few inches away from the end of the stem to keep moisture inside.
Storage Tip and Techniques: Getting the Most from Your Acorn Squash
Many people choose to store their acorn squash after a large harvest. Unfortunately, improper storage puts your entire supply at risk of expiring. Here are a few ways to maximize the life of your acorn squash for several months at a time.
Choose a Cool and Dry Place to Store
The best choice you can make while preparing your acorn squash is to pick the right spot to store it. Keeping them in a cool place that is no more than 55 degrees Fahrenheit helps the rind to remain hardened, protecting the inner flex. Exceeding this temperature puts it at risk of rotting, molding, and other damage, which is why many people keep them in their refrigerators until they are used.
Store Them In a Single Layer
When an acorn squash fully ripens, it usually only weighs a few pounds at the most. However, stacking them on top of each other leaves them with soft spots over time, putting them at risk of expiring. If you put them in a single row or layer in storage, their rind stays strong and intact.
Freeze Cooked Squash
If you prefer to cook your squash before storing it, a refrigerator doesn’t provide low enough temperatures to preserve it. Even with the best storage, prepared squash won’t last for more than 4 days with perfectly tight sealing. If you want to use this cooked squash later, preserving it in a tightly sealed container in the freezer gives you up to a year to use it.
To cook squash before freezing it, peel it and remove the seeds. Then, cut it up into the pieces that you prefer. Whether you store it raw or roast it first, freezer temperatures offer the best temperature to keep it fresh.
Signs that Your Acorn Squash is Ready to Be Harvested
|1||More than 80 days have passed.|
|2||The squash turns dark green.|
|3||The rind hardens.|
|4||The stem withers.|