Delicata squash is a type of winter squash and unlike its summer cousins, this squash has been left to enable the rind to harden and seeds to fully develop.
Winter squashes like delicata squash are ideal for harvesting in the winter as their hard outer skin enables them to be stored during the winter months.
But, being a winter squash, there is an ideal time frame as to when to harvest delicata squash and key signs to look for. Harvest too early, and your squash won’t have matured to be stored. Harvest too late, and your squash will decay from the frost.
Keep reading to find out exactly when you should harvest delicata squash, and how to pick, and store them.
When Should You Harvest Delicata Squash?
More important than anything else, delicata squash needs harvesting before the first frost. If your squash is left in the ground when the first frost hits, your squash is at risk of decaying.
Delicata squash is often harvested between 80-100days from planting the seeds. It is when your squash is pale yellow with green stripes, and the skin is hard, that your squash is ready to be harvested. Unlike summer squash varieties, delicata squash should not soften when pressed with your fingertip.
Another sign to look for when harvesting delicata squash, is the condition of the vines. The vines will become dry and turn brown, breaking easily when lifting your squash.
How Do You Pick A Delicata Squash?
Picking delicata squash is relatively easy, but as it is more delicate than other winter squash varieties, extra care is needed.
Should you damage your delicata squash during the harvesting process, you will need to use it right away as they do not keep well when bruised or pierced.
When harvesting your squash, make sure to check the condition of the stem, leaves, and skin.
The stem and leaves should be brown and crisp to the touch. The leaves usually are first to dry up, followed by the stems. Only once all of the stems have dried are your delicata squashes ready. If there is still some yellow or green coloring on the stem, then your squash needs a few more days until it is ready.
You also need to press your fingernail into the squash’s skin gently. If it is hard and pierces the skin without leaving a fingerprint indent, your squash will be ready. This gentle test helps to assess whether the skin is firm and your delicata squash is ripe.
When your delicata squash has passed both the vine and skin test, your squash is ready to be picked.
Ensure to use sterile, sharp garden cutters to remove your delicata squash from the vine. When cutting leave at least 2 inches of stem attached to the head of your squash. Though this part of the stem will also be dry and you may be tempted to remove it from your squash, it is important to leave it attached. Removing the stem completely can leave your squash at risk of rotting.
How To Store Delicata Squash
Once removed, delicata squash needs curing and then can be stored whole or prepared for easy use later on. To cure your squash, wipe away any dirt and excess moisture as this could lead to rotting.
Place your squash in a warm, sunny area with good ventilation to help its skin dry. Your delicata squash should be spread out in this area for around 10 days to allow the excess moisture to evaporate and the skin to harden.
Not only does curing your squash help to preserve it for longer and enable storage for several months, but it also enhances the flavor making your delicata squash sweeter.
If you want to use your delicata squash immediately, however, you do not need to complete the curing process. Simply wash and cut your squash ready to be cooked. Delicata squash is delicious when roasted, used in pasta, or even as a soup.
You are also able to freeze any extra squash you may have to be used later on. To store delicata squash in this way, cook the squash until it is soft and then place it in freezer bags.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if you pick delicata squash too early?
If you pick delicata squash too early, it means that your squash will not have fully matured and the skin will be softer. Although you can cook and eat delicata squash at this stage, it cannot be stored and would need to be consumed immediately due to the hard skin not having time to form fully.
Can delicata squash ripen off the vine?
No, it can’t. It is so important to leave your delicata squash on the vine until it is fully mature and ready to be harvested. Even then, you need to ensure to leave at least 2 inches of stem attached to each squash. Without it, your squash will begin to rot.
Can you harvest delicata squash early?
You can harvest delicata squash earlier. However, mature delicata squash is fuller in flavor and can be stored for longer.
What does an unripe delicata squash look like?
An unripe delicata squash has deep green stripes instead of green with a hint of orange. The skin will be soft to the touch and the vines will still be green and yellow.
Can delicata squash survive frost?
No, a delicata squash cannot survive the frost. If left to harvest after the first frost, your delicata squash will begin to rot once it has thawed. It is important to harvest your delicata squash before the first frost appears.
How do you know when the delicata is ripe?
Your delicata squash is ripe when the vines have turned brown and are completely dry. Your squash will also have hard skin that does not dimple or leave imprints when gently pushed with your fingertip.
And if you love squash, be sure to check out all our other guides about squash, or start with a few of these: