Acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo) is an annual vining winter squash plant that produces ribbed fruit with green or gold rinds. When harvested ripe, the fruits store for about three months. To determine if an acorn squash is ripe, consider the appearance and texture of its skin, the condition of the vine and the number of days since sowing.
An orange patch appears on the area of the acorn squash that rests on the ground when the fruit is ripe, and skin is matte. An immature acorn squash is shiny. As the fruit ripens, it loses its shine and looks dry and dull.
A ripe acorn squash has a very tough skin. To test whether an acorn squash is ripe, try to pierce the skin with your thumbnail. Your nail won't easily leave a mark on a ripe acorn squash.
As an acorn squash matures, the vine deteriorates. When an acorn squash plant turns yellow and dies back, the fruit are usually ripe.
Acorn squash are usually ready to harvest about 80 to 100 days after sowing. The seeds are sown in spring after the final local average frost date, and the fruits mature as fall approaches.
An unripe acorn squash doesn't ripen after harvest. Acorn squash fruit texture and flavor develops as the fruit ripens. Unripe fruit are watery and taste bland, and store badly.
Cover an acorn squash plant if frosts threaten and the fruit isn't ripe. Spread old blankets or a layer of newspaper five or six sheets thick over the plant in the evening and remove them in the morning. Acorn squash can survive a light frost.
'Jersey Golden Acorn'
'Jersey Golden Acorn' is an acorn squash variety that produces fruit that can be picked unripe without losing flavor. The flesh of this variety is sweet when the fruit is golfball-sized, and the skin is soft. You can eat unripe 'Jersey Golden Acorn' fruit raw or cooked.
Harvest acorn squash by cutting the stem 1 inch from the fruit, and store the fruit in a dry place at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. An acorn squash fruit stores best at 50 to 75 percent humidity.
Wipe your knife with a cloth that was soaked in rubbing alcohol, before and after harvesting acorn squash fruit.