Harvesting Squash

August 27, 2015 – Kenosha News

SquashQuestion: How will I know when my patty pan squash and zucchini are ready to harvest? E.M.

Answer: Summer squash are at their premium taste and texture when small.  For green and yellow elongated types, such as zucchini, straight necks or crooknecks, harvest when they are no more than 2 inches in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. Patty pan and other round flatted summer squash are ready at 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Globe-shaped varieties should be picked at 2 to 3 inches diameter. It can be difficult to find green summer squashes among the plant leaves so check for harvestable fruits every day or two. Harvest by cutting the stem with a sharp knife approximately one inch above the squash. Summer squash bruise easily so handle carefully and use as soon as possible. Oversized, but not the huge baseball bat sized, can be used as a vessel for stuffing or shredded for breads and baked goods. Regular picking encourages additional flowering and fruit production.

 

Question: When are spaghetti squash ready for harvest? D.H.

Answer: Spaghetti squash is a type of winter squash which are harvested when fully mature. Winter squashes are ready for harvest when they are a deep, solid color and the rind is hard. Use your thumb nail to make sure the rind is nice and firm.

When harvesting, cut the vine with a sharp knife or pruners, leaving at least two inches of stem attached to the fruit. Squash with stems store better than those without stems.

Winter squash should be harvested before heavy frost, which may damage the rind and reduce storage time. Squash with bruises, cuts or gouges, or damaged by frost are very likely to rot in storage. Damage fruits should be processed immediately.

Whole winter squash can be stored two to four months – spaghetti squash will last about two months – in a dry location where the temperature is kept between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Did you know that a pumpkin by any other name is a winter squash?  Winter and summer squash, pumpkins and gourds belong to one of four species. Cucurbita pepo is the largest species with spaghetti, acorn and delicata winter squash, many of the smaller pumpkins, several gourds, and all the summer squash. Giant pumpkins, hubbard squash, and Turk’s Turban gourds are Curcurbita maxima. Pie or processing pumpkins are in the same species as butternut squash.

 

Barb Larson is horticulture educator for Kenosha County University of Wisconsin Extension. Gardening questions can be emailed to barbara.larson@kenoshacounty.org or call Master Gardener Volunteers at 262-857-1942.