Spaghetti squash, like pumpkins and butternut, is a winter squash that is harvested in the fall. It doesn’t look or taste like spaghetti, but when it’s been cooked, the flesh can be shredded into long, thin, pasta-like strands using a fork. It has a mild flavor and tastes good with many typical pasta sauces.
When to harvest spaghetti squash? Spaghetti squash, also called vegetable spaghetti and noodle squash, is usually ready to pick in late September or October. But the approximate date will depend on your spaghetti squash planting dates.
Another indicator is the flowers. They should be ready to harvest about 40 to 50 days after these appear.
How Do You Know When Your Spaghetti Squash Is Ready to Harvest?
Like all winter squashes, spaghetti squash is left to ripen on the vine. But how do you know that it’s ripe and ready to harvest?
A reliable rule of thumb is that you can harvest spaghetti squash about 90 to 100 days after it has been planted. Generally, the information on seed packets will be more specific in terms of the growing time the different varieties of squash require.
If you don’t have a seed packet because you’re growing heirloom spaghetti squash seeds you have harvested, or you’ve lost the packet, there are several signs that will help you.
These include color, skin features, and the vine they are growing on. Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s not difficult to tell when spaghetti squash is ripe.
Signs That Tell You When You Can Pick Spaghetti Squash
First of all, you aren’t going to be able to judge the ripeness of spaghetti squash by size or shape. It may be oblong or cylindrical and size varies.
For instance, when ripe, this type of squash may be anything from 30-15 cm in diameter and can weigh between 4 and 8 pounds (1.8-3.6 kg). Additionally, even if the fruit is the size it should be when it reaches maturity, it may not be ripe yet.
Here are a few guidelines that will help you identify if your spaghetti is ready to pick or not.
The newly formed fruit of spaghetti squash plants is green. During the long growing season, the skin of the squash will gradually change color to ivory white, bright yellow, and then a dull but even golden yellow.
When it’s golden yellow the squash is probably ready to pick. But don’t rely on only one sign. To be certain, check the rest as well.
Unlike summer squash, the skin of winter squashes is quite thick and tough when it’s ripe. If you can scratch the skin off with a fingernail, the fruit isn’t ripe.
If you push your fingernail into the skin of the squash and you can’t penetrate the skin easily, the spaghetti squash is ripe. This is because the skin dries out while it ripens and gradually toughens up.
It will harden up even more if you cure the fruit after you harvest spaghetti squash. More about that later.
The Vine & Squash Plant Stems
When spaghetti squash is ripe the leaves and stems of the squash plants will turn brown as they dry out.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Spaghetti Squash?
If you don’t harvest spaghetti squash it will rot on the vine. At this point, all it’ll be good for is compost.
But there’s no reason not to harvest all of it. Some will last for at least two months if you store the squash in a cool dry place.
If you don’t want (or need) all the fruit, you can give it to friends and family, or sell it at a local farmers’ market.
How to Harvest Spaghetti Squash?
Spaghetti squash is pretty simple to harvest. But don’t be tempted to try and rip or twist it off the vine.
If you pull it, you’re likely to break the stem and even dislodge it from the fruit. This is a sure way of shortening the storage life of squash by causing unnecessary deterioration.
When you’re sure that it’s ready to pick at the end of the growing season, get yourself pruners or a sharp knife or garden scissors.
Carefully cut each squash off the vine, leaving one to three inches of stem attached to the fruit. This will ensure it doesn’t rot at the point where it is attached to the stem.
It’s also very important to avoid damaging the skin of the squash. Even though minor imperfections will “heal” during the curing process (see below), broken or bruised fruit doesn’t store well.
Any badly damaged squash will need to be cooked and eaten as soon as possible after harvesting to avoid the risk of rotting.
Should You Wash Spaghetti Squash after Harvesting?
Most experts warn that the skin should not be washed before you store spaghetti squash. They also recommend that wet fruit should not be handled or harvested.
However, there is a school of thought that advocates wiping the rind of winter squashes with a weak 10% solution of household bleach mixed 90% with water. This will kill any mold or mildew that has developed or might develop on the skin.
It should, though, be thoroughly dried and stored in a dry environment after cleaning. Any moisture will encourage rotting.
Can You Eat Spaghetti Squash Immediately after Harvesting?
You can eat spaghetti squash immediately after harvesting. But be sure to harvest it when it’s ripe because immature spaghetti squash lacks flavor. Even the ripe fruit has a very mild flavor.
It’s a good idea to eat some of the fruit soon after it’s been harvested. This is because it doesn’t have the same storage life as some other winter squashes that will keep for as long as four to six months.
Spaghetti squash generally only survives storage for one to a maximum of three months. If you harvest spaghetti squash in mid to late October, there’s a good chance that at least some of the fruit will last well into winter.
If you have a half-decent harvest, you will want to store at least some of the crop. You can extend their storage life by ensuring the squash is ripe when you harvest it, and by curing it.
How to Cure Spaghetti Squash
Curing lengthens the shelf life of all winter squashes except acorn squash. What it involves is storing the fruit at a relatively warm temperature in a well-ventilated space for about 10 to 14 days.
The reason we cure pumpkins and winter squashes is to get rid of some of the excess water in the fruit and dry them out to an extent.
- Concentrates the natural sugars making the squash taste sweeter
- Slows the respiration rate of the fruit, which improves long-term storage qualities
- Helps to reduce the chance of rot
The skin of spaghetti squash hardens during the curing process contributing to the above improvements.
If the fruit has any blemishes, or if the skin was damaged when you harvested it, don’t bother to cure it. It’s likely to last at least a week if you store it in the refrigerator until you want to cook and eat it.
How to Store Spaghetti Squash
You can usually store spaghetti squashes in a cool, dry place for one or two months if you harvest them when they are ripe. If they are cured, they are likely to last a bit longer.
Remember that spaghetti squash is a warm-season vegetable that is sensitive to cold. The best conditions for storage are 50 to 55°F (10-12.7°C) in a room or cupboard that has a relative humidity of 60 to 70%.
Store the squashes in a single layer. Make sure they don’t touch each other and there is air circulation.
Turn them occasionally, every couple of weeks, while they are in storage.
Never store your winter squashes with ripening fruit, like apples and pears that produce ethylene gas. This will shorten their storage life too.
Once you have cut your spaghetti squash open, store it in the refrigerator where it should keep for at least five to seven days if you’re lucky. Once you have cooked it, it will generally be okay to eat for about four or five days.
Spaghetti squash makes a great alternative for many of the regular pasta sauces. It’s easy-to-grow, and healthy, and lacks the carbs regular spaghetti contains.
It’s one of the most popular winter squashes, and like most of this type of squash, should be allowed to ripen on the vine. The trick is to know when to harvest it at the right time, when it is fully mature.
The gardening tips in this article detail how you will know when your spaghetti squashes are ready to harvest. Color is a dead giveaway as is a vine with stems and leaves that are going brown.
Use the information provided on your seed packet to gauge an approximate harvest date. But be sure to check our guidelines that will show you whether or not the fruit is ready to pick or not.
Buon appetito. Enjoy your hard-earned spaghetti squash meals!