When to choose spaghetti squash for perfection

Spaghetti squash is a wonderful winter squash that, when cooked, is appreciated for its fun inner flesh, reminiscent of spaghetti noodles. Bake or fry the pumpkin and the soft pulp can be used as a delicious vegetable substitute for your pasta dishes or stir-fries! This plant is not only a great gluten-free pasta substitute, but also a practical garden companion. Its massive, bushy green leaves provide ground cover and limit the amount of sunlight from the soil. Alternatively, if you plant the seeds near a trellis, they can climb up to maximize your vertical garden space. As you grow this plant in your garden you may be wondering if it's ripe and when to pick spaghetti squash – and we can help you with that!

There are many varieties of this beautiful winter squash, such as stripetti squash, Tivoli spaghetti squash, and more. They all have this remarkable noodle-like meat in a tough shell. And they all have different harvest times! It can also be tempting to pick all of the pumpkins at once, but keep in mind that your fruit may ripen on the same vine at different times. Don't worry, we're going to cover some general signs to help determine when the spaghetti squash is ripe and ready to be picked.

When the spaghetti squash is harvested at the end of the growing season, store them in a cool, dry place so that they are not wasted. Even if you accidentally harvested your pumpkins early and they are green and unripe, you can still cook them as a summer pumpkin or keep them ripening on the bush to make pumpkin spaghetti. We'll cover all of that!

When should you harvest spaghetti squash?

Yellowed skin is a sign of when to pick spaghetti squash. Source: Rigid

Be ready to harvest spaghetti squash in late summer or early fall before the first winter frosts. Some people keep track of things by estimating 40-50 days after the yellow pumpkin flowers bloom. This can be a tedious process and requires a lot of attention (and a calendar!). Fortunately, however, there are other signs that indicate a ripe pumpkin. This includes checking the vine, the hardness of the bark, and the color and brightness of the skin.

When you determine the time is right to pluck the spaghetti squash, use clean disinfected scissors or secateurs and cut the stem 2-3 inches above the squash. It is important to leave a stem on the fruit or the pumpkin may be more prone to mold or rot quickly. Let the pumpkin dry or harden in a sunny, dry place for a week or two before storing. Moisture can quickly spoil winter squash.

According to the expected maturity date on the package

The date on the seed package should be a rough guide to when the pumpkin is ready to be harvested, but not the only indication of when the spaghetti squash is ripe. Spaghetti squash takes about 100 days to mature. There is a wide variety of harvest dates, from 60 to 110 days, and it all depends on the variety of spaghetti squash you are growing and your growing zone. So use the ripening date from the seed pack to estimate the harvest window, but make sure to use the points below to test ripeness so you can really 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 to be harvested. If the vine is still green, the fruit is still developing on the plant.

Shiny skin

Winter squash is ripe when the skin looks dull. Ripe spaghetti squash has a dull, non-shiny appearance when it's ready to be plucked. If the skin of the pumpkin is shiny, it is a sign that it is immature and that it needs more time to mature in the garden. Your patience will be rewarded with these wonderful vegetables!

Your pumpkin is golden

The skin of the spaghetti squash tells you when it is ready to be harvested. It will change from a soft creamy white to a bright yellow. Make sure that the ripe spaghetti squash is even golden yellow in color. If the skin of the pumpkin is unevenly colored, such as green spots or stripes, or the pumpkin is partially yellow, it is immature.

Using a color indicator in conjunction with vine inspection and fingernail testing will give you the best clues as to when to harvest that winter squash from your garden.

The fingernail test

Next, you can test the bark for maturity by gently pushing in with your fingernail. If you leave marks or pierce the skin, the spaghetti squash will need more time before harvest. Ripe winter squash has a hard, tough rind and is not easy to mark or pierce with a fingernail. Keep in mind that an overripe pumpkin can get mushy and soft with an easy-to-mark rind. The harvest time may already have passed.

Visible damage

If there are dark spots or soft or squishy spots like bruises or dents, harvest time may be over and the spaghetti squash may be overripe. Watch out for mold, this is another indication that the plants are overripe and inedible. In addition, if the flower end of the winter squash (opposite the stem) turns black, the squash can be lost.

Does spaghetti squash ripen off the vine?

Spaghetti squash on the vineAn unripe spaghetti squash on the vine. Source: Ian_Harding

Perhaps you are expecting an early winter frost or you want to harvest your spaghetti squash before it's fully mature, you can let the squash ripen on the bush. You've been gardening all summer and maybe you are on vacation! The more mature your spaghetti squash, the more successful you will be in letting it ripen from the vine. To test the ripeness, tap the peel of the pumpkin. If the winter squash sounds hollow, it can be ripened on the vine.

Rinse and dry the spaghetti squash. Put in a warm, sunny place to mature. If the pumpkin has green spots, make sure it is facing the sun. You may need to slowly rotate or reposition to make sure your winter squash is ripening. It turns a beautiful golden yellow color when it's done and ripe.

Storage preparation

Before storing your harvest, you should clean the pumpkins to remove mold, mildew, dirt, or dust. Use a disinfectant solution of 10% bleach, 90% water and wipe off all of the bark. Let the pumpkin dry completely before storing.

Spaghetti Pumpkin Preserve Store

Not quite ripe spaghetti squashAlmost full-grown spaghetti squash will gradually turn yellow. Source: Aquila-chrysaetos

When you cook your spaghetti squash, you can freeze the noodles and they will keep for 6-8 months. Before you freeze the vegetable noodles, you need to prepare them by first boiling the pumpkin, letting it cool, and placing it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Then drain the excess moisture, pat the pasta dry, and then it's ready to freeze. You can use plastic freezer bags to store the pre-cooked pasta.

Keep in mind that chilling winter squash will increase its decomposition due to the moisture in the refrigerator. Don't keep a whole spaghetti squash in the refrigerator unless it's tightly wrapped to prevent moisture from seeping into it. If you cut a raw pumpkin and wrap the leftovers tightly to limit moisture ingress, it will keep in the refrigerator for 2-5 days.

Maybe you don't have enough space in your freezer or fridge to store the spaghetti squash? That's fine as you can prepare the winter squash for longer term storage. Find a cool, dry, and dark place. To maximize your products, make sure they are stored in a single shift and not touching each other. A cool temperature range between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal and the pumpkins have a shelf life of 3-6 months. The pumpkin can be kept for 1 month at room temperature. Check the pumpkins every week for signs of rot or tenderness.

frequently asked Questions

Young spaghetti squashVery underripe pumpkin can have a greenish hue. Source: Jo Zimny

Q: How long can you leave spaghetti squash on the vine?

A: Trick question! Dates on packs of spaghetti squash seeds are an estimate of the harvest. The maximum recommended length for most varieties is 110 days on the vine. It will get overripe after that, but be sure to check the bark, color, and vine to test when you can harvest.

Q: Does all spaghetti squash turn yellow?

A: Yes! When they turn golden yellow, it is ripe and ready to be harvested.

Q: Can you eat unripe spaghetti squash?

A: Yes you can. Some like to cook green spaghetti squash like summer squash. It will have a mild taste. It's fun to experiment with eating your plants at different stages!

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