Contents - Click a link to skip to the section you want to read
- 1 What is spaghetti squash?
- 2 The lifecycle of a squash
- 3 When to pick spaghetti squash
- 4 Will spaghetti squash ripen off the vine?
- 5 How to ripen spaghetti squash off the vine
- 6 How to store spaghetti squash
So, you’ve grown your first crop and things are looking good. However, knowing when to pick spaghetti squash is almost as important as those green fingers of yours if you want to get the most from your harvest.
Going in with the secateurs too early or too late can be problematic, so you’ll want to get it right. Hopefully, this post will give you all the pointers you need to gather your spaghetti squashes at exactly the right time.
First, though, for anyone who has landed here out of curiosity, we’ll take a really quick look at what this fabulous fruit is all about before digging into when to pick them.
What is spaghetti squash?
A spaghetti squash is a winter vegetable (although, technically it’s a fruit) that is a fine alternative to its pasta namesake when you want to lower your carb intake or simply up the veggie count in your diet. A relative of the pumpkin, spaghetti squash (sometimes referred to as vegetable spaghetti) is pretty easy to grow, and they’re fun to cook with, too.
While their appearance may be similar to other squashes, it’s the difference when cooked that sets them and apart and earns them their name. In its raw form the inside looks unremarkable, but once cooked the squash offers up beautifully long, fibrous strands that resemble, you guessed it, spaghetti.
Taste-wise, spaghetti squash is a pretty bland veggie; think somewhere between a very mild pumpkin and zucchini and you’ll be in the right ball park. However, as its texture and appearance is so reminiscent of angel hair pasta, this isn’t much of a problem. Spaghetti is to be eaten with a delicious sauce, right? So, ladling a good vegan sauce atop spaghetti squash is the way to go.
The lifecycle of a squash
Like all plants, the spaghetti squash plant goes through certain stages throughout its life:
Spaghetti squash seeds are very similar to butternut squash seeds, albeit a little paler in color. These flattish, oblong seeds are relatively simple to germinate in the correct conditions and will often sprout seedlings within 3-4 days. The stem will appear first with its seed leaves before growing proper leaves a few days after these are seen.
Once the spaghetti squash’s seedlings have gathered strength, the next stage is vine growth. As it is a winter squash, be prepared for some serious vine growth! For this reason, many gardeners train their spaghetti squashes to grow on trellises rather than leave them sprawling along the ground.
Flowering and fruiting
Spaghetti squash, like all other squashes, have both male and female flowers. Male flowers will generally appear first and are ladened with pollen ready for the the female flowers to appear so the bees and other insects can do their thing. Female flowers are pretty easy to spot, as they’ll usually have a tiny squash directly below the blossoms.
Once the female flower has been fertalized successfully, the miniature squash will begin to grow and the flower will start to dry up before eventually falling off altogether. Unlike summer squashes, which can grow rapidly and be ready for picking within just a few weeks, winter squashes take a lot longer to reach harvesting stage. Which brings us nicely to…
When to pick spaghetti squash
Knowing when to pick spaghetti squash is as important as knowing how to grow them in the first place. Here are a few handy tips to ensure that you harvest your crop at exactly the right time:
Perhaps the most obvious tell-tale sign of ripeness is the color of your spaghetti squash. What you are looking for is anywhere between off-white creamy coloration, through to a deep yellowy, golden hue. You’re also looking for an evenness in their color, too. A good, solid color across the whole of the rind is a decent indication of ripeness.
The key indicator color, though, is green. If your spaghetti squash still has a greenish tint to it, leave it where it is; it’s not ready yet.
The video below gives you an excellent visual guide to what a nicely ripe spaghetti squash should look like:
A properly ripe spaghetti squash should be firm to the touch, almost hard, in fact, and a good way to check is to use your fingernail.
Once you are happy with the color, give your squash a prod with your nail to see if you can make a dent. If you feel as though your fingernail will puncture the rind; the squash isn’t ready yet and needs a little more time on the vine.
Scratching the skin, too, can be a good indicator. Again, if the rind feels in any way soft or spongy, the squash needs more time to mature.
If there’s no give at all and the squash feels hard and solid, it’s time to reach for the pruning shears, your fruit is ready to pick.
If your fruit has been on the vine for a while and you’re looking to check for over-ripeness, there are a couple of things you can look out for.
Just as when a spaghetti squash is under-ripe, an over-ripe fruit will be softer to the touch, but in an altogether different way. When pressed, if you’re finger feels as though it’ll break the skin under pressure, then your squash has probably gone too far and become over-ripe.
Another tell-tale sign of over-ripeness is bruising or discoloration. If you spot any obvious blemishes on your fruit, take a closer look and perform the finger test above.
Checking the squash as soon as you see the color change from green to yellow is the best way of preventing over-ripening of your squashes, so be sure to give them a once over daily.
Will spaghetti squash ripen off the vine?
Now, there may be instances when you’ll want to remove you fruits from the vine early, such as an impending frost, for example, which begs the question, Will spaghetti squash ripen off the vine?
The short answer is, yes it will. However, there are a few things you need to know.
There is absolutely no substitute for ripening your spaghetti squash fully on the vine. While it is indeed possibly to bring your fruit on once it has been removed, you will undoubtedly lose flavor.
Then there’s the question of how unripe your squash can be if you want to ripen it off the vine. The rule of thumb is that green squashes which have hardened well can become ripe after being removed from the vine, but soft, immature fruits will never ripen.
Alternatives to ripen off the vine include trimming back the leaves surrounding the fruits so that more sunlight can reach them and speed up the ripening process whilst still attached to the vine.
How to ripen spaghetti squash off the vine
First of all, you need to get those green squashes off of the vine. Cut them down with a good pair of pruning shears, leaving around 2 to 3 inches of vine attached to the fruit.
Once removed, your first job is to give them a good wash. Squashes are especially susceptible to mold, and the last thing you want is a load of rotten fruits only fit for composting. Be sure to dry them properly, too.
Now washed and dried, your squashes are ready to ripen. The best way to do this is to put them out in the sun, turning them daily to ensure all sides receive their share of rays. If sunlight is in short supply, spaghetti squash will ripen indoors, but it’ll probably take considerably longer.
If you are ripening yours outside, be sure to keep an eye on overnight temperatures. If an overnight frost looks likely, bring them indoors to avoid losing them to the cold snap.
How to store spaghetti squash
Now you’ve got your harvest off of the vines and your squashes are all nicely ripened, you’ll obviously want to know how best to store them. Thankfully, storing spaghetti squash is pretty easy.
The key things to remember when storing spaghetti squash are heat and moisture. If you can maintain a cool and even temperature of around 60°F in a dry part of your home, your squashes will keep for up to three months…perfect for getting through those winter months!
Somewhat counterintuitively, refrigerating spaghetti squash will speed up its deterioration. This is because although a refrigerator is a good place for keeping things cool, it’s lousy at keeping things dry. Fridges are full of moisture, so you can expect a whole squash to keep in a refrigerator for only a fortnight or so.
Once cooked, it can also be frozen. If done correctly, you can extend your squashes life to as much as six to eight months with this method. Check out how to freeze spaghetti squash here.
I think that’s everything! Now you know exactly when to pick spaghetti squash and what to do with it once you’ve taken it from the vine. If you have any additional tips you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment below!