Friday, September 23, 2016

How and When to Harvest Winter Squash and Pumpkins by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
Winter squash and summer squash are two separate vegetables to be handled differently.

Summer squash varieties include zuchinni, yellow squash and patty pan and are harvested and eaten as immature fruit.  Summer squash has soft, thin skin that is edible, can all be eaten raw or cooked, and has a mild flavor that can range from sweet to nutty. 

Winter squash varieties include acorn, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti, turban and of course pumpkins. They are harvested when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. Winter squash are picked in September or October, before heavy frosts. Mature fruits can be stored most of the winter if protected from freezing. Immature squash and pumpkins do not store well; therefore, be sure that fruit is mature before harvesting.

To harvest and store winter squash and pumpkins follow these guidelines:
  • Pick winter squash when the skin has hardened into a tough rind not easily dented with light fingernail pressure. 
  • Harvest the fruit by cutting it off the vine with a sharp knife or a pair of looping shears leaving 3-6 inches of the stem attached to the fruit. 
  • Wash the fruit with soapy water containing one part of chlorine bleach to ten parts of water to remove the soil and kill the pathogens on the surface of the fruit. 
  • Make sure the fruits are well dried before setting in a shed to cure.
  • Winter squash can tolerate light frost that kill the vines.
  • Squash are best stored at a temperature between 50 and 55°F. Put the fruits on a single layer on wooden pallets with enough space in between them (the squash should not touch each other) and do not place them on a concrete floor. Store the fruits in a cool dry place.
For more information about harvesting and storing winter squash check these out: