Learning when to pick spaghetti squash is important. Picking it at the right time will help with both flavor and long-term storage.
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Spaghetti Squash is a great vegetable to grow
Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite vegetables to grow. I have always loved growing winter squashes. That love goes back to my early exposure to gardening. My inlaws always grew several different types of winter squash and I love walking through their garden and searching through the tangle of vines to find squash.
Over the years spaghetti squash has become my favorite. I love the taste, texture, and uses of this versatile vegetable more than any other squash we grow.
Knowing when to pick spaghetti squash is important. Picking spaghetti squash at the right time maximizes storage time and taste.
Today I will teach you when to pick spaghetti squash and we will also discuss how to cure and store it. What you learn from this article about spaghetti squash will also apply to other squashes like butternut, Hubbard, pumpkins, and acorn.
5 ways to know when to pick spaghetti squash
There are 5 different tricks I’m going to teach you today that will help you know when to harvest spaghetti squash. Using all 5 methods will help you get them picked at the right time. I’ve also filmed a video on this topic that you can watch here.
Days to maturity
The first thing to pay attention to when trying to decide when to pick spaghetti squash is the days to maturity on your seed package.
Most spaghetti squash will have maturity dates between 90 to 110 days. These maturity dates will be based on the number of days from when you first planted the seed. So you really don’t even need to worry about harvesting your squash until you start to reach that date. For most northern gardeners your squash will be ready in late summer, usually late September.
Also, keep in mind that the days to maturity on your seed package will be when the first fruit starts to ripen. Fruit will set at different times on your spaghetti squash plants. The first will ripen in roughly 110 days, but they won’t all ripen at the same time, some squash may ripen as much as a month later than when the first squash ripened.
Fruit color change
Most spaghetti squash starts out a pale green, almost white color. You know that harvest time is approaching when you start to see the color of your green squash change. The green color will disappear, the squash will first turn a pale yellow and as it reaches maturity the color will darken to a deep golden yellow color.
This deep golden yellow color change will be the first thing to tell you when to pick spaghetti squash.
Squash glossiness will change
The next sign that your spaghetti squash is ready to harvest will be a little more subtle. In fact with some varieties, you may not even notice this change. But if you watch closely the surface of the squash will become less glossy.
As your spaghetti squash reaches final maturity the skin will become less glossy and will take on a duller sheen. This will happen as the squash reaches that final deep yellow color we talked about above.
Vine and Leaves color/dryness
As the season progresses and your squash matures you will start to see the vines and leaves start to die off and turn brown around your squash. When this happens it is a sure sign your squash is ready.
Skin toughness – The Fingernail Test
The final and most reliable method for knowing when to pick spaghetti squash is using the fingernail test. Immature spaghetti squash will have soft skin.
Truly ripe spaghetti squash will have very tough skin. Try pressing your fingernail into a squash that you think is ripe. If it is ready, pressing your fingernail hard into the skin of the squash will leave little or no impression. Ripe spaghetti squash will have hard, unyielding skin and the nail will not leave much of a mark.
If your spaghetti squash passes this test then you know it is ready to harvest.
A few other considerations
It is always preferable to leave your squash on the vine until they are fully ripe. If the squash passes all of the tests above it will be tastier and will last longer in storage. But be sure to keep a close eye on them because they can become overripe if left too long.
Frost is okay for spaghetti squash but not a hard freeze
If you have a night towards the end of the growing season where you will possibly have light frost, your squash should be okay. The frost will kill off the vine and help finalize the ripening process.
But a hard freeze (anything under 32 f or 0 c) is not good for your spaghetti squash. You don’t want the squash to get frozen. Freezing will dramatically affect the quality of your squash and the storage time. So if the weather is going to be too cold it is best to harvest your spaghetti squash and bring it inside.
Will Spaghetti Squash Ripen off the vine?
Yes! If you are anticipating an early hard freeze it is possible to get spaghetti squash that is almost mature to ripen off the vine. The more mature the squash is the more likely it will be to ripen off the vine.
You can test maturity by thumping the squash. If it sounds hollow when you thump it then it is likely mature enough to ripen off the vine.
Bring the spaghetti squash inside, wash and dry it and then place it in a warm sunny window. Rotate the squash often to put the green spots in the sun and your squash should ripen to a deep golden yellow over the course of a few weeks. You can learn more about riping winter squashes like spaghetti squash or pumpkins by reading this article.
How to Harvest Spaghetti Squash
Harvesting spaghetti squash is simple. It is important to use either a sharp knife or a sharp pair of garden pruners.
When you harvest a spaghetti squash it is important to leave 3 or 4 inches of stem attached to the squash. Leaving at least 3 inches of stem attached prolongs storage and prevents bacteria from entering the squash and causing it to rot.
Simply cut the spaghetti squash from the main vine when it is ripe and then bring it indoors to either use up or cure for storage.
How to Cure Spaghetti Squash for Storage
Curing is the final step in the process before putting your squash away in storage. Curing allows the skin to go through the final hardening process so that it will last longer in storage.
To cure spaghetti squash, first, wash and dry your squash. Clean the squash with either a bleach mixture (10% bleach 90% water) or wipe the squash down with white vinegar. Either of these methods will kill bacteria and remove mildew.
Then simply layout your squash in a warm protected area like a covered patio or in a garage. The ideal temperature for curing is between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (26 to 30 degrees Celsius). Let your squash sit in this spot for 10 to 14 days before putting them in their final storage location.
How to Store Spaghetti Squash
The ideal temperature for storing spaghetti squash is between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 13 degrees Celsius). So you are looking for a dark cool spot.
The best location would of course be a root cellar or cold storage spot. But most of us don’t have that option. So instead look for the coolest spots in your home or garage. Unheated basements are great options as are insulated garages. Just be sure that there is no chance your spaghetti squash will be frozen as that will quickly cause them to rot.
Other storage options would include dark closets or pantries.
Avoid stacking your spaghetti squash on top of each other. It is best to store them side by side in a single layer and preferably not touching each other. If you stack your squash on top of each other that reduces airflow and if one squash starts to rot it can quickly spread to others.
Check your squash weekly while in storage, remove any squash that is showing signs of deterioration or rot.
Spaghetti squash can last in storage for 3 to 6 months, but it doesn’t last as long as some squashes so use them early.
You can also cook your squash and then freeze the cooked spaghetti squash in serving-sized bags for up to 8 months.
Well, there you have it! You now know when to pick spaghetti squash and how to cure and store it. We love spaghetti squash. It is delicious eaten on its own or as a replacement for noodles in many pasta dishes.