How do you know when to harvest your squash?
Harvest time depends on which varieties you are growing and how you want to use them. For starters, summer and winter squash need to be harvested before the first hard frost as the cold will kill plants and damage fruit.
Although all squash can be eaten when small, squash that produces tender skin and few seeds are usually picked young throughout the season hence the name summer squash. These are usually “zucchini,” “scallop” and other similar varieties. Winter squash, on the other hand, refer to varieties that have outstanding long-term storage qualities. Winter squash is ready when the rind is tough enough to not be punctured by your fingernail.
When you go to cut them from the vine, be sure to leave about 1 inch of the stem attached. If your fingernail can indent the flesh, the fruits won’t store well and are better eaten right away.
Don’t forget to clean, salt and roast the seeds for a healthy snack!
Photo above: A “Potimarron” winter squash (Cucurbita maxima) ripening in our garden. This French heirloom produces 3-4 pound fruits that have a chestnut-like flavor.