4 Clear Signals Your Acorn Squash Is Ready to Be Harvested (Plus Tips on Storing Them) 

Written by Micky Moran
Updated: November 9, 2023
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The sweet yet nutty flavor of acorn squash appeals to many people. This winter squash falls in the same family as other gourds like spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and kabocha squash. The consistency is so similar that many people alternate with other gourds in their preferred recipes. The only gourd that doesn’t do as well is spaghetti squash.

With almost one-fifth of the daily recommended vitamin A in a single serving, this winter squash has substantial health benefits. It reduces the risk of infection, supports the health of multiple organs, and even helps you to see better. It also offers 37% of the vitamin C that your body needs. With so many benefits, you want to make sure that any harvested acorn squash gets the care it requires for long-term use. 

Signs of Acorn Squash Readiness

Knowing the right time to harvest your winter squash makes a big difference in flavor, preservation, and nutritional content. When you harvest the squash, beat the first frost of the winter. While they aren’t so delicate that a little cold weather hurts them, frost damages the rind. It causes soft spots that deteriorate the gourd before it ever has a chance to be stored. Since this frost often happens at the start of Autumn, watching for the signs of readiness is the easiest way to protect it.

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Sign 1 – More Than 80 Days Have Passed

Acorn squash can take up to 100 days to go from small growths on the vine to heavy 3-pound gourds.

©waferboard / CC BY 2.0 – License

Growing acorn squash requires commitment, so patience is important. Once you plant your squash, proper care still takes 80-100 days before harvesting. It requires less time before it fully ripens than other winter squash. For instance, it takes up to 110 days for butternut squash to be ready for harvest.

If you plan to harvest to store the acorn squash immediately after harvesting it, you should give it a little more time. As the rind hardens, it preserves the flesh inside. You don’t have to rush to remove it from the vine. With the right care and good weather, keeping the squash on the vine for a few more weeks gives the rind even more time. A healthy and hardened rind preserves the food inside.

Sign 2 – It Turns Dark Green

The deep green hue shows the acorn squash is nearly ready for harvest.

©Dave Shafer / CC BY 2.0 – License

When you check on your acorn squash, don’t harvest it before it turns green. As soon as it becomes green, the acorn squash is ripe. The green is rich and dark, creating a perfect barrier to the outside world.

While the rest of the surface of the acorn squash turns green, the bottom doesn’t. Don’t take this as a sign that the acorn squash isn’t ready. The area that sits on the ground gradually becomes orange, transitioning from its former yellow hue.

Sign 3 – The Rind Hardens

Whole and chopped Acorn squash or Honey bear squash.

The dark rind provides a strong barrier to protect the nutrients inside the squash.

©Valentyna Dmyrtiieva/ iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

If you see that your acorn squash is now green, the second sign to look for is a hardened rind. The rind is the skin of the squash, and it stays soft through the months of growth. However, as it ripens, the rind goes from soft to hard to protect the soft squash inside.

Sign 4 – The Stem Withers

Kabocha squash on a vine in a field

Much like other gourds, the acorn squash needs to lose the green in the stem before it should be cut.

©iStock.com/y-studio

As acorn squash grows, all of its nutrients come from the stem that supports it. If the acorn squash no longer needs this nourishment to grow, the stem starts to wither. This sign is the perfect indication that you waited long enough to harvest. Get out your shears and cut the stem a few inches away from the end of the stem to keep moisture inside.

Storage Tip and Techniques: Getting the Most from Your Acorn Squash

Taking steps to ensure proper storage means the difference between a few days and a full year of using this harvest.

©iStock.com/MSPhotographic

Many people choose to store their acorn squash after a large harvest. Unfortunately, improper storage puts your entire supply at risk of expiring. Here are a few ways to maximize the life of your acorn squash for several months at a time.

Choose a Cool and Dry Place to Store

The best choice you can make while preparing your acorn squash is to pick the right spot to store it. Keeping them in a cool place that is no more than 55 degrees Fahrenheit helps the rind to remain hardened, protecting the inner flex. Exceeding this temperature puts it at risk of rotting, molding, and other damage, which is why many people keep them in their refrigerators until they are used.

Store Them In a Single Layer

When an acorn squash fully ripens, it usually only weighs a few pounds at the most. However, stacking them on top of each other leaves them with soft spots over time, putting them at risk of expiring. If you put them in a single row or layer in storage, their rind stays strong and intact.

Freeze Cooked Squash

If you prefer to cook your squash before storing it, a refrigerator doesn’t provide low enough temperatures to preserve it. Even with the best storage, prepared squash with perfectly tight sealing won’t last for more than 4 days. If you want to use this cooked squash later, preserving it in a tightly sealed container in the freezer gives you up to a year to use it.

To cook squash before freezing it, peel it and remove the seeds. Then, cut it up into the pieces that you prefer. Whether you store it raw or roast it first, freezer temperatures offer the best temperature to keep it fresh.

Signs that Your Acorn Squash is Ready to Be Harvested

1More than 80 days have passed.
2The squash turns dark green.
3The rind hardens.
4The stem withers.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Franco Folini / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License / Original


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About the Author

Micky Moran is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering mammals, travel, marine life, and geography. He has been writing and researching animals and nature for over 5 years. A resident of Arizona, he enjoys spending time with family, going on adventures across the United States with his wife and kids by his side.

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