When harvesting acorn squash, timing is everything. You want the squash to be slightly firm, yet buttery. You want it to be slightly sweet, but not over-ripe and mushy. So how do you know when your squash are ready to be picked? After all, the darn things turn dark green before they are mature and they stay dark green until they are past their prime. Many inexperienced backyard vegetable gardeners aren't sure when they should pick their acorn squash.
Most varieties of acorn squash are ready to be harvested 75-100 days after planting the seeds. The best way to tell if your acorn squash is ready to be picked is by the color of the fruit and the texture of the skin.
The part of the squash that is touching the ground should be a deep orange color. If it's light orange, the squash is not mature enough. Let it mature another couple of days and check again.
When the colored patch has turned deep orange, use your fingernail to check the toughness of the skin. If it resists slightly to being punctured, it's ready to be picked. However, it the skin is still tender and punctures easily, it needs a few more days on the vine to mature.
When picking acorn squash, use a knife or shears to cut the squash from the vine. Leave about an inch of stem attached to the squash.
After harvesting, wipe off any dirt with a damp cloth. The squash can then be stored for 2-3 months in a cool, dry, dark place like a basement, crawl space or root cellar. If you plan to eat the squash in a few days, they can be stored on the kitchen counter or table as-is, at room temperature. Do not put the squash in the refrigerator or cover them as this will cause them to spoil faster. Acorn squash will last for 10-14 days at normal room temperature before beginning to spoil.
If you don't have a good spot to store the whole squash long term, you can also freeze it. Just cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds and roast it cut side down in a baking dish in the oven at 375 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Let cool, scrape out the flesh and put it in airtight bags and store in the freezer. The squash will last at least 6 months in the freezer.
Now that you're done harvesting acorn squash, it's time for a few of our favorite recipes...