Acorn squash: when are they ripe?

carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)July 25, 2010

This is my first time growing acorn (and butternut too) squash. They look healthy and are fist-size. But it seems so early - I thought they took months longer to mature, like pumpkins - and I don't want to harvest them if they actually need another several weeks or a month. They're all dark green and fluted like acorn squashes I see in the market. Should I wait longer? I'd prefer to wait, since I'm dealing with a zucchini problem right now (problem: too many!) How long can I leave the acorn squashes on the vine?


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Hey Carol,
My best advice would be to leave them on the vine for a few more weeks. Acorn squash are interesting in that they do eventually turn orange like a pumpkin but they are mature even before that when they are dark green. Basically, as you might or might not know, squashes are divided into two categories. There are "summer squashes" and "winter squashes." Summer squashes include zucchini and are harvested BEFORE they are mature. This allows the flesh to be very soft, squishy, and palatable with little cooking. Also, the seeds are edible at this stage and thus do not need to be removed but may be eaten. Winter squashes however are harvested AFTER they have matured. The flesh is usually harder, must be cooked longer, and the seeds are very hard, mature, and must be removed prior to cooking. This is why we remove pumpkin seeds and in your case, butternut squash seeds and acorn squash seeds. Since acorn squash and butternut squash are both winter squashes, they can be harvested any time after they have matured, giving you a much larger window during which you may pick them. Essentially, it is never too late to harvest a winter squash. By that same token, it IS too late to harvest summer squashes when they have matured unless you want to remove the mature seeds. What this boils down to is that you should wait a few more weeks for your acorn squashes to grow. I've grown acorn squashes for a few years now and they usually are ready by the second week in August but never before the third week of July and my zone is 6. Hopefully that helped!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 10:22AM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Thanks, joer. Good clear advice and descriptions. So (sigh of relief) I don't have to figure out where to store or when to cook, those acorn & butternut squashes - yet. My pots & oven are full of large (but still tender) zucchini being stuffed and then cut into portions and frozen. At this rate I won't have to cook at all, this winter. And the tomatoes aren't ripe yet; when they are, it's gonna be big kettles of tom. sauce and stewed toms., and wholesale-size boxes of ziploc bags, for freezing.

This is my first year of growing other vegs. than tomatoes. I didn't realize those vines would snake out overnight, and invade the other beds, and head for the potager fences. Next year I might plant only 1 seed of each kind of squash.

It's a good thing we like squash.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 1:19PM
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Here's what you can do, if you realize you didn't give your butternuts enough time to ripen...
1) Put paper towel down on your window sill.

2) Place your squash "stem up" so they sit nicely and can get enough sun.

3) Take additional paper towel (about 1 piece for every stem you have), wet it, and wrap it around the cut-off stem. Try to do this as soon as possible after cutting your squash off the vine. Also make sure most of the paper towel is where the stem is cut off.

4) To make sure it stays damp, take a piece of foil (I used pieces about 3-4" squared) and gently place it on top of the paper towel that is covering the stem of the butternut...making sure to pinch it tightly around the part of the stem that is closest to the fruit (so the foil should resemble the shape of a light bulb). Make sure the foil completely covers the paper towel.

5) Repeat every day, for about a week (or less if your stems happen to get mushy, mine didn't), to ensure they're getting enough water to keep them ripening.

TAH DAAAAAAAAAAH! Brilliance at it's best.

Thank you.
(I made this up, and tried it, and it completely works!)

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 2:18PM
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