Learning When to Pick Acorn Squash
Growing acorn squash is an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of your summer gardening long into winter. An easy-to-grow winter squash variety, the acorn squash is versatile and can be used in sweet and savory dishes. For a beginner gardener or an experienced gardener growing acorn squash for the first time, it can be difficult to know when to pick your squash.
What Does Acorn Squash Look Like?
To know whether your acorn squash is ripe, you first need to know what a mature fruit looks like. Acorn squash is called such because it does resemble an acorn, at least in shape. Through the growing season, the squash starts out as a pale greenish-yellow color. As they mature, the fruits turn a deep green color.
Additionally, a ripe acorn squash often has a vibrant yellow or orange streak or splotch somewhere on it. However, not all acorn squash varieties have this splash of color, so its absence is not a huge concern.
Keep Track of Days Since Planting
Along with other winter squash like spaghetti and butternut, acorn squash has a long growing season. Take note of the day you planted the seeds, then count forward 80 days. Once you hit that date on the calendar, you should start checking the acorn squash daily to monitor the ripening process.
Some types of acorn squash can take as many as 100 days to fully mature, so they may not be entirely ready at the 80-day mark. If you are not sure what variety you planted, you should be able to look on the back of the seed packet to see how long the growing season is.
Tip: Remember that even amongst plants from the same batch of seeds, the squash will mature at different rates.
Other Signs that Harvest is Approaching
There are other ways you can tell if your acorn squash is almost ripe enough to pick.
- The vines will turn brown and look like they are dying, even if they have plenty of water.
- The stems of the acorn squash will start to turn a grayish color and stiffen up.
- Occasionally, a squash will fall off the vine before you can cut the stem. This is a sure sign of ripening!
Tip: If you come across a squash that has fallen off the vine, go ahead and pick it. If the weather is still warm, the lack of stem can make the fruit rot quickly.
How to Pick Acorn Squash
When it is time to harvest the acorn squash, arm yourself with a sharp knife and some gloves. Grab each stem about two inches from the fruit and cut through it. If you happen to cut too close to the actual squash, be sure to use it up before the rest. A too-close cut can allow bacteria to enter the acorn squash and cause spoilage.
Once you have harvested the ripe squash fruits, leave the rest on the vine until they are also fully grown. As long as the weather stays warm enough, the squash will continue to ripen, and the sun will cure them.
As you pick the squash, brush them free of dirt and plant debris. They can be washed and cooked right away, or you can store them for the winter.
How Long Can Acorn Squash Stay in the Field?
Acorn squash is one of the few winter squash varieties that does not continue to ripen after you cut them from the vine. Therefore, it is essential to leave them attached and in the field as long as possible. If there is a frost in the forecast, you can quickly cover the plants with a plastic sheet or other frost protector and allow them to remain uncovered during the warm fall days.
Once you have tasted the first few fruits from your acorn squash plants, you will be glad that you decided to plant this hardy winter squash. Then, as the winter months draw near, you will be even gladder when your shelf is full of them!