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So, when to harvest spaghetti squash? The best time is early to mid-fall.
In the northern hemisphere, that’s usually September and October, and in the southern hemisphere, March and April.
Spaghetti squash needs somewhat of an extended growing time. In most cases, up to four months or 120 days.
This can vary so It’s a good idea to check your spaghetti squash regularly after about 90 days. You will get those that arrive early.
In fact, the great thing about this vegetable is that it staggers the ripening phase. In other words, they won’t all ripen at the same time.
One of my favorite memories growing up on my parent’s vineyard was harvest time for our squash, butternut, and pumpkins.
When I say harvest season, the fact that they ripened at different stages meant collecting them at different times and cutting down the workload.
Why was this a favorite time for me? It usually coincided with the start of the school break in Australia.
My job was to make sure that all the ripe squash, butternut, and pumpkins were collected and stored on covered drying racks. These were racks we used several months early to dry currants and sultana grapes.
My reward? I got to go and stay with my cousins in the city for a couple of weeks. It was always the most motivating time of my life. Every ripe vegetable was picked and stored.
My dad planted the squash and pumpkins in between vine rows or the apricot and peach trees.
The idea was when they were harvested, the plant and foliage would be plowed back into the soil. It was extra nourishment for the soil.
- Harvest late summer to mid fall
- The squash skin should be a golden-yellow color
- The growth time from seed to harvest is usually 100-120 days.
When To Harvest Spaghetti Squash: Maturity Indicators
Let’s expand on when to harvest spaghetti squash and how and why you need to pick it at the right time.
The truth is, you shouldn’t get this wrong, and don’t let it intimidate you.
I was told as a youngster that the reason you need to pick it at the right time is to gain maximum flavor and nutrition from the vegetable.
Too early and it’s not developed enough. Too late and it will get messy, soft, and have an unpleasant odor.
In frost-prone areas, sometimes it may be necessary to pick it a little early but spaghetti squash will continue to ripen off the vine.
The reality is the squash will let you know when it’s ready to be plucked from its garden.
Squash Harvest Indicators
So here are some of the maturity indicators to look for.
- The squash will change in color from light green to yellow or golden yellow. The yellowing of the squash indicates maturity. It’s up to you to decide when to harvest it when this happens. Some pick them early in the ripening process while others prefer them to be extra ripe.
- The size of the spaghetti squash is important. While size will vary among the different vegetables, when they reach 7-10 inches in length and are yellowing in color, that’s a sign they are ready to be picked.
- Another sign they are ready to be harvested is when you approach late summer and early fall. Combined with the other factors mentioned above, if the squash is yellow in color, at least seven inches in length, and 3-5 inches in diameter, it’s ready. I learned not to leave harvesting them too long, especially when frost is a major factor in your area. They don’t like frost.
One more sign that your squash is ready for harvest is its firmness status. A ripe squash can be difficult to pierce with a fingernail.
That’s a sure sign it’s ready if the other indicators are present. If it’s easy to pierce, perhaps leave it for a little longer on the vine to mature.
Don’t get too hung up on when to harvest spaghetti squash.
Just follow the indicators above and use your own judgment.
Once you’ve harvested your first crop, any ensuing crops will become easy to assess.
How to Harvest Spaghetti Squash
So now you know the right indicators of when to harvest spaghetti squash.
Let’s look at how to harvest this delicious vegetable.
All you need are pruning snips or a sharp knife.
My mother always used the latter although she was very experienced at this process.
I would suggest using pruners if this is your first time.
There’s less chance of any accidents occurring, to your hands and to the squash.
Make sure you leave at least a couple of inches of the stem on the squash instead of cutting it back to the front of the vegetable.
Believe it or not, this helps prolong its life while in storage. It also cuts down the chance of rot setting in.
Here’s a quick guide on cutting the squash from the vine:
- Hold the spaghetti squash firmly with one hand.
- With your other hand, carefully position the pruners or knife about 2-3 inches from the base of the squash.
- Slowly and firmly cut through the stem with your tool of choice.
Storing Your Spaghetti Squash
Okay, now you’ve harvested your spaghetti squash, what now? Well, before storing your vegetable, it’s worth following a couple of important post-storage guidelines.
Storing them without some simple cleaning maintenance could present issues such as running the risk of rot becoming a problem. Here’s what you do:
Firstly, make sure to gently clean off any dirt or debris with a soft, dry cloth. Be cautious not to damage the skin while cleaning.
Then, keep the squash in a cool and well-ventilated area for about 2 weeks. This allows it to cure, which helps to seal any cuts and improve its shelf life.
Once the squash is cured, store it in a cool, dark area with a temperature range of 50-60°F (10-15°C) and humidity no less than 60 percent and no higher than 75 percent. Preferably place it on a breathable surface, like a wire rack or on top of some mulch, to protect it from moisture and improve air circulation.
It’s tempting to overlook this post-storage preparation to save yourself extra work. But trust me, it’s well worth it and this will help keep the squash fresh and delicious for months to come.
Conclusion: More Storing Tips
We had a lot of spaghetti squash to store after the harvest. The bulk was sold but what we had left over, a good portion of it was frozen.
Some of the squash was frozen as is for a short period before we used it. I’d recommend not freezing it for more than 3-6 weeks so as not to compromise its taste and freshness.
We also would cook a portion of the squash and then freeze it. Again, for no longer than six weeks. Make sure you use freezer-safe containers or bags once the squash has cooled down.
And leave space between each piece of the squash. In other words, don’t cram them all into a small space.
When you defrost the squash place it in the refrigerator first rather than sitting it on a counter. Gradual defrosting will help maintain proper texture.
One more storage tip. Pickling the squash in jars is a great way to enjoy them over a long period.
Cook the squash, cut it up into small slices when cooled, and place them in a jar. I like to use a third of water, a third of vinegar, and a third portion of Italian dressing. You may replace the Italian dressing with a dressing of your choice.