How to Tell if a Spaghetti Squash is Ripe
Whether you are picking a spaghetti squash from your garden or purchasing one at your local Farmer’s Market, you won’t know if they are ready to eat unless you know they are ripe.
A fully mature spaghetti squash is a bright yellow or golden color. If it is still pale yellow or cream-colored, it is not ripe. Additionally, the skin should be smooth and should feel dry to the touch. The stem should be gray and hard, and when you tap on the squash, it will make a slightly hollow sound.
Tip: Unlike other winter squash, spaghetti squash will not continue to ripen once it is off the vine. Therefore, making sure the squash you choose is ripe is vital.
Picking Spaghetti Squash From the Field
If you have grown your own spaghetti squash and feel like it is time to harvest them, the signs of ripening are the same as if you are buying them from a grocery store. However, there are also other signs you can look for to determine maturity.
- Are the vines brown and do they look nearly dead? Wilted vines are a sure sign that harvest is imminent.
- Are the rinds of the spaghetti squash hard? If you cannot pierce or scratch them with a fingernail, they are ripe.
- Are the stems of the individual squashes a silvery-gray color? If they are and feel dry, the spaghetti squash is ready to pick.
Tip: Some towns have “You Pick” fields where you can go harvest fruits and vegetables for a lesser price than purchasing them in a grocery store. Your local extension center should have information about growers that offer this service.
How to Harvest Spaghetti Squash
Once you have determined that your spaghetti squash fruits are ready to harvest, the actual process is really quite simple. Arm yourself with gloves to protect your hands from the prickly vines and a sharp knife. Then, hold the spaghetti squash in one hand, and swiftly cut through the stem a downward motion.
Be sure to leave at least two inches of stem attached to each squash. The stem helps prevent bacteria from entering the squash, which in turn protects it from spoilage. If a stem does come off, you should cook that particular squash as soon as possible. It will not store well and will spoil very quickly.
What to Do With Harvested Spaghetti Squash
Once you have picked the perfect spaghetti squash, there are myriad ways in which you can cook it. Because the prepared strands do resemble spaghetti noodles, many people bake the squash and use it as a pasta substitute. Spaghetti squash is an ideal substitute for pasta in many dishes.
You can also steam the spaghetti squash and serve it simply with butter and seasoning, or chill it to use in your favorite cold pasta salad.
Regardless of whether you eat the squash immediately or choose to store it for a few weeks, there are endless ways to prepare it. However, being able to make your favorite dish depends entirely on how well you have picked your squash. As long as it is ripe enough, you are only limited by your imagination.