Squash Harvesting and Storage Tips

The most important part of harvesting your winter squash is making sure you harvest them before the first frost of fall. As the squash approach maturity and are ready to harvest, you’ll notice that the stems of the squash will start to dry out and wither. Depending on where you live, you can expect to start harvesting in September and finish by October or early November.

Because of the vast varieties of sizes and colors, the rule of thumb for harvesting winter squash is when they are a full size and have a deep rich color. The rinds should be hard to the touch. If you harvest your winter squashes too early, they may lack flavor.

You can use a bypass pruner to cut through the stem and remove the squash, leaving about 2 ½ inches of the stem on the fruit. A short stem can lead to rot. This may not be possible with smaller varieties, however. In these cases, preserve as much as the stem as possible. It’s also important not to damage your squash when harvesting and storing, as they can go bad more quickly. Try avoiding manually breaking the stem at all costs.
Store you squash in a dry place with temperatures under 60°F. If you have a large crop, don’t stack them too high as they need plenty of air to breath so they don’t prematurely rot.

Some winter squash need to be “cured” before storing. Curing your squash requires storing them in higher temperatures (around 68°F or slightly higher) for at least fifteen days. You can then move them to a cool, dry place. Never store your squash when there is a risk of freezing. Delicata and acorn squash do not need to be cured.

Another option for storage is to cut your squash into chunks and store them in freezer bags. Use your frozen squash quickly to maintain flavor. Do not store whole squash in the refrigerator, as humidity levels are much too high.

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