Move over, butternut squash; there’s a new squash in town that’s gaining popularity. This new squash, of course, is the buttery, delicious, versatile delicata squash.
With an edible rind and a smooth, creamy flavor, more and more gardeners are experimenting with growing and preparing delicata squash.
When do you harvest delicata squash? Delicata squash is typically ready to harvest 50-55 days after fruit has set. Harvest times range from 80-100 days after planting seeds. Pick the squash only once the fruit becomes pale yellow with green stripes and the skin is hard and doesn’t yield when pressed firmly with a fingernail.
In the following, I’ll show you exactly when and how to harvest this tasty treat as well as how to cure and store this exciting squash.
When To Harvest Delicata Squash
Like most winter squashes, the delicata squash needs a solid few months to grow and mature on the vine before you can pick it from your garden.
Most estimates put total grow-time from seed to harvest around 80-100 days, although the actual time frame is dependent upon growing conditions.
Many growers find their delicata squash finishes maturing between 50 and 60 days after fruit has set, so keep an eye on your squash once it starts to hit that time range.
Signs To Look for Before Picking Delicata Squash
Besides keeping track of the days, there are other ways to tell if your delicata squash is ready for harvest.
First, its colors should change once it ripens. A ripe delicata should have a yellow color with green stripes. If your squash is light green, that means it is unripe.
Additionally, if your squash is off-color in spots, it is unripe or didn’t mature properly.
Many gardeners report that the lighter the color, the better it is. If your squash turns deeper colors (like a more orange tint), this means that the squash was left on the vine too long and may be past its prime.
Another sign that your delicata is ready for harvest is if its skin has become hard.
You can press your finger down on the skin, and if the pressure doesn’t leave a mark and you feel the skin is hard, your squash is ready for harvest.
How To Harvest, Cure & Store Delicata Squash
Once you know that your squash is ready, harvest the squash by cutting it off the stem. You’ll want to cut the stem that connects it to the vine roughly 2 inches away from the head of the squash.
The curing process is fairly simple. To cure, simply place the squash in a sunny spot in your home.
After it has cured in the sun for a few days, you can store the squash in any cool, dry place. Delicata squash can last like this for weeks or even months.
Delicata Squash Growing Tips
Contrary to being called winter squash, it’s important to grow delicata squash during the summer since it needs so much sun to produce.
In fact, the delicata squash requires full sun for at least 8 hours per day in order to mature and ripen properly.
Because it takes so many months to grow when you plant your delicata squash in the spring and summer, it should be ready to harvest and eat by the time those cooler fall months roll around.
Pests & Diseases
Sometimes delicata squash is particularly vulnerable to specific pests like aphids, cucumber beetles, and cutworms and can succumb to diseases such as downy mildew, powdery mildew, and bacterial wilt.
Make sure to check your squash daily to ensure that it is not suffering from any of these pests or diseases.
If you find pests, make sure to get rid of them quickly with specific pest control options.
If you’re wary of using chemical-based products, neem oil is an organic oil that is particularly powerful against aphids and beetles.
It’s also effective on a host of other pests and contains antifungal and antibacterial properties. I use this neem oil to treat a variety of plant issues and am always impressed by the results!
Soil & Watering
In terms of soil conditions, delicata squash requires moist soil to survive. Try watering deeply once a week (or more if you happen to live in an exceptionally dry climate).
Some gardeners have much success by creating a drip line or using an in-ground watering system. In-ground watering systems help deliver a consistent level of water.
If you must, you can water the squash overhead, but excess water on the leaves can increase the chances of disease forming on your plant.
Can You Leave Delicata Squash on the Vine Too Long?
Like all fruit and vegetables, you need to remove delicata squash from the vine once it has finished maturing.
If you leave the squash on its vine for too long after it has matured, the vegetable will eventually rot.
Make sure to keep an eye on your squash once it hits the range of maturity in order to harvest your squash at the optimal time.
Can You Eat Immature Delicata Squash?
Technically, you can eat immature delicata squash, but it probably won’t taste very good.
Think of growing squash as growing flavor. The more your delicata squash grows, the more flavor seeps into the rind and squash flesh.
It’s not poisonous to eat unripe squash, but keep in mind that the flavor will be lacking and it may be an unpleasant experience.
Of course, if it is your first time growing delicata squash, you may be overeager and pick the squash before it has fully ripened.
Understanding the nuances of when squash is perfectly ripe and ready to be picked takes a bit of practice. So, don’t feel deterred if you get too excited and pick a squash before it is fully ready.
Does Delicata Squash Need Curing?
If you plan on using your squash right away, you do not need to cure it; however, the curing process is an integral step to your harvesting and growing process if you plan on storing the squash for any length of time.
By allowing the squash to rest in warmer temperatures, the skin can further dry and harden before you store it, which ensures that it will last for weeks or even months.
Like all winter squashes, delicata squash must cure for three to five days prior to you moving the vegetable to long-term storage.
Make sure not to wash your squash until you’re ready to cook it; the whole point of the curing process is to allow the squash to dry and harden.
If you wash the squash, this counteracts any good the curing process does.
To cure, place your squash indoors in a patch of sun for a few days. Once the skin has hardened, it is ready to be moved into storage.
Is Delicata a Hybrid Squash?
Delicata is not a hybrid squash; instead, it is a variation of winter squash closely related to other squashes, such as summer squashes or zucchini.
Does Delicata Squash Ripen Off the Vine?
Delicata squash does not ripen off the vine. This is why it’s so vital that you don’t cut it from the vine prematurely.
Curing may help ripen the squash to a small degree, but it usually can’t fully ripen the squash if the curing process is started when the fruit is still green.
Wrapping It Up
Once you nail the growing, harvesting, and curing process, delicata squash is a beautiful vegetable that delivers rich, creamy flavors.
Additionally, it is a great squash to prepare if you’re in a rush; since the rind is edible, you don’t need to peel it as you do with other winter squashes (like butternut squash).
All in all, growing these squashes takes a bit of patience, practice, and nuance.
If you mess up during one growing season, make sure not to be deterred, and try again! Once you successfully grow delicata squashes, it can feed you and your family for many months.