Spaghetti squash is a wonderful winter squash that, when cooked, is valued for its fun inner flesh that resembles spaghetti noodles. Bake or roast the squash, and the soft flesh on can be utilized as a delicious vegetable substitute for your pasta dishes or stir-fries! Not only is this plant a great gluten-free pasta substitute, but is a practical gardening companion. Its massive bushy green leaves provide ground cover and limit sun exposure to the soil. Alternately, planting the seeds near a trellis lets them climb up to maximize your vertical gardening space. When you are growing this plant in your garden, you may be wondering if it is ripe and when to pick spaghetti squash – and we can help with that!
There are many varieties of this beautiful winter squash, such as stripetti squash, tivoli spaghetti squash, and more. They all have that notable noodle-like flesh within a hard rind. And they all have different harvest times! It can also be tempting to pick all the squash at once, but keep in mind that your fruit may mature at different times on the same vine. Do not worry, we will cover a few common signs to determine when the spaghetti squash is ripe and ready to pick.
Once the spaghetti squashes are harvested at the end of the growing season, be sure to properly store them in a cool dry location so that they will not go to waste. Even if you accidentally harvested your squashes early, and they are green and unripe, you can still cook them as summer squash or let them continue to ripen off the vine to make squash spaghetti. We will cover all of this!
When Should You Harvest Spaghetti Squash?
Be ready to harvest spaghetti squash in late summer or early fall, before the first winter frost. Some folks keep track by estimating 40-50 days after the yellow squash blossoms have bloomed. This can be a tedious process and requires lots of awareness (and a calendar!) but luckily there are other signs that indicate a ripe squash. This includes checking the vine, the hardness of the rind, and the color and brightness of the skin.
When you determine it is the right time to pick the spaghetti squash, use clean disinfected shears or pruners and cut the stem 2-3 inches above the squash. It is important to leave a stem on the fruit, or else the squash can be more susceptible to mold or start rotting quickly. Let the squash dry or cure for a week or two in a sunny, dry location before you store it. Moisture can quickly spoil winter squash.
By Estimated Ripen-By Date On Packet
The date on the seed packet should be a loose guideline of when the squash is ready to pick but not the only indication of when the spaghetti squash is ripe. Spaghetti squash takes approximately 100 days to maturity. There is a wide range of harvest dates, from 60-110 days, and it all depends on the variety of spaghetti squash that you are growing and your growing zone. So use the ripen-by date from the seed packet to estimate the harvest window but be sure to use the following to test for ripeness so that you can truly enjoy your harvest!
When The Vines Start To Turn Brown
The plant and its stem should be dry and brown. This signals that the spaghetti squash is ripe and ready for harvesting. If the vine is still green, the fruit is still developing on the plant.
Winter squash is ripe when the skin looks dull. Ripe spaghetti squash will have a matte, non-shiny look when it is ready to pick. If the skin of the squash is shiny, it is a sign that it is unripe and needs more time to ripen in the garden. Your patience will be rewarded with this lovely vegetable!
Your Squash Is Golden
The skin of spaghetti squash will tell you when it is ready for harvesting. It will go from a soft creamy white to a brilliant yellow. Look for an even golden yellow color for ripe spaghetti squash. If there is uneven coloring on the skin of the squash such as green spots or streaks, or the squash is partially yellow, it is unripe.
By using a color indication in conjunction with checking the vine and the fingernail test, it will give you the best clues on the right time to harvest this winter squash from your garden.
The Fingernail Test
Next, you can test the rind for ripeness by gently pressing your fingernail into it. If you leave a mark or puncture the skin, the spaghetti squash needs more time before harvesting. Ripe winter squash has a hard, tough rind and is not easy to mark or puncture with a fingernail. Keep in mind that an overripe squash can become mushy and soft with a rind that can be easily marked. The harvesting period may have already passed.
If there are darkened spots or soft or mushy spots like bruises or indentations, the harvest time may have passed and the spaghetti squash might be overripe. Watch for mold, this is another indication that the plants are overripe and inedible. Additionally, if the flower end of the winter squash (opposite of the stem) is turning black, the squash may be lost.
Will Spaghetti Squash Ripen Off The Vine?
Maybe you are anticipating an early winter frost or want to harvest your spaghetti squash before it is fully ripened, you can let the squash ripen off the vine. You have been gardening all summer, and maybe you are due for a vacation! The more mature your spaghetti squash is, the more success you will have in letting it ripen off the vine. To test its maturity, knock on the rind of the squash. If the winter squash sounds hollow, it can be ripened off the vine.
Rinse and dry the spaghetti squash. Place it in a warm, sunny location to ripen. If there are green spots on the squash, make sure that this is positioned towards the sun. You may need to slowly rotate or reposition to ensure that your winter squash is ripening. It will turn into a lovely golden yellow color when it is ready and ripe.
Before you store your harvest, you will want to clean the squashes to remove any mold, mildew, dirt, or dust. Use a disinfectant solution of 10% bleach, 90% water and wipe down the entire rind. Let the squash dry completely before storing.
How To Store Spaghetti Squash
If you are cooking your spaghetti squash, you can freeze the noodles and it will store for 6-8 months. Before freezing the vegetable noodles, you will need to prep them by first cooking the squash, let it cool, and place it in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Then drain any excess moisture, pat dry the noodles, and then it is ready to freeze. You can use plastic freezer bags to store the precooked noodles.
Keep in mind that refrigerating winter squash increases decomposition because of the moisture in the fridge. Refrain from storing a whole spaghetti squash in the fridge unless it is wrapped tightly to prevent that moisture from getting to it. If you cut up a raw squash, and tightly wrap the remains to limit that moisture coming in, it will last 2-5 days in the fridge.
Maybe you do not have enough space in your freezer or fridge to store the spaghetti squash? That is ok, as you can prepare the winter squash for longer-term storage. Find a location that is cool, dry, and dark. To maximize your produce, make sure that they are stored in a single layer and not touching each other. A cool temperature range between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal, and the squashes will store for 3-6 months. At room temperature, the squash will store for 1 month. Check every week for any signs of rotting or softness in the squashes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long can you leave spaghetti squash on the vine?
A: Trick question! Dates on the spaghetti squash seeds packets are an estimation of harvest. The maximum length recommended for most varieties is 110 days on the vine. After then, it will become overripe, but be sure to check the rind, color, and vine to test when to harvest.
Q: Do all spaghetti squash turn yellow?
A: Yes! When they turn a lovely golden yellow, it is ripe and ready for harvest.
Q: Can you eat immature spaghetti squash?
A: Yes you can. Some like to cook green spaghetti squash like summer squash. It will have a mild flavor. It is fun to experiment with eating your plants at different stages!