News from the Edible Demo Garden
October 2023: An Abundance of Squash
How can you tell when squash is ready for harvest?
The timing of the harvests for summer and winter squashes differs in relation to the maturity of the developing fruit. Summer squash (zucchini, patty pan, yellow, crookneck) is picked before it is fully mature, and the rind hardens. Winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, acorn, delicata) should be allowed to fully mature on the vine. Here are some general harvesting guidelines for each type.
- Winter squash should remain on the vine until the peduncle (stem) turns brown.
- Winter Squash: In contrast to summer squash, winter squash should stay on the vine until it is at maximum size and the shell is hard and dull in color. Wait until the color on the stem changes from green to brown, then the squash is ready for harvest. When it comes to winter squash, it is better to leave them on the vine too long than not long enough. If the vines are dying, it’s time to harvest.
To sum it up - harvesting summer squash requires vigilance and harvesting winter squash involves patience!
General Harvesting Rules:
- Summer squash can grow too large very quickly. This one became a farm mascot.
- Be gentle when harvesting – If the vegetable is not easily picked, use a knife, scissors, or pruner. Summer squash can be harvested with regular pruners, but heavy pruners or a sharp knife is best for harvesting winter squash. Leaving a short stem attached prolongs storage life. Leave 2 to 4 inches of stem intact on winter squash. Handle summer squash gently to prevent wounds to the skin.
- Pick frequently to prolong the harvest – Keep in mind that a plant’s goal is to reproduce. When fruit is allowed to fully mature, then it signals to the plant that there is no need to continue flowering and fruit production will diminish.