Knowing when to harvest yellow squash can be tricky for the novice gardener. Let me explain when you should harvest your yellow squash!
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When to Harvest Yellow Squash
How do I know when my squash are ready to be picked? I’ve been asked this question before.
There is a little bit of variance between varieties, but not much. One of the biggest variations that you will notice is the straight neck and crooked neck. These traits don’t really affect the timing of when to harvest yellow squash though.
You’ll notice in my pictures that I grow straight necked squash. I haven’t really found a difference between the two varieties. They both grow exceptionally well and aren’t hard to take care of.
The reason that I grow straight necked squash is simply because I prefer how they look when I slice them up. I don’t like the way a crooked neck squash cuts up. I’m always left with a couple of weird chunks rather than some pretty slices from a crooked neck squash.
Not that it matters, it just bothers me.
Now, let’s talk about when to harvest yellow squash. You can look at the size of the squash and the color to determine when it is ready to pick.
How Long is It?
The longer the squash gets, the larger around it will get.
The longer the squash, the more the seeds inside will be developed. Squash seeds can get quite tough if they are allowed to fully mature.
Picking squash earlier prevents the seeds for toughening up inside of the squash.
Try to harvest your yellow squash when they are about six inches in length. You can also look at the plumpness of the squash and the color to figure out when to harvest your yellow squash.
Look at the Plumpness of the Blossom End
Usually the longer a squash gets, the bigger around it gets. Emphasis on the usually.
Yellow squash can become oddly shaped. Sometimes the plump end will get really big around, leaving the neck small. When this happens, it doesn’t usually get any longer.
There will be some difference in diameter between the blossom end of the squash and the neck of the squash. That’s normal and expected. If you see the end start to balloon out through, go ahead and pick it.
Back to the seeds…. A yellow squash that is really large and 2-3 inches in diameter will have tougher seeds inside.
If you want to avoid tough seeds, harvest your yellow squash when it’s 1- 1.5 inches in diameter. At this stage, the seeds are barely visible and soft. The seeds will mature rapidly and become tough quick.
Look at the Color
Yellow squash are yellow from the beginning.
Most yellow squash that are ready to be picked are a soft, light yellow. When the squash starts to turn dark yellow, it’s beginning to mature. Squash that have overly matured have an almost orange tint to the skin.
The dark yellow squash not only have tough seeds, but the skin will be tough as well.
Dark yellow squash will feel leathery and less smooth than lighter colored squash. They are still completely edible, but have the tougher skin and seeds.
Don’t worry if your squash have lines on them. The lines are marks left behind from either you picking it or the squash being rubbed against the plant. Squash plant stems are prickly and can easily scratch the delicate skin.
Remove the Bad Ones
This is important if you want to keep your plants productive!
When you are harvesting your yellow squash, check for bad squash.
Bad yellow squash are easy to spot. Usually the blossom end starts to turn brown. You might also notice that the squash has become shriveled and squishy.
If you don’t pick these off, your squash plant will keep trying to send nutrients to that squash to help it grow. Don’t let the plant waste valuable nutrients trying to grow a bad squash. Pull it off and chunk it or add it to the compost pile.
Allow the plant to send all of the nutrients to healthy squash. As soon as you notice a bad one, pull it off.
How to Pick Yellow Squash
Now that you know when to harvest yellow squash, what’s the best way to get it off of the plant?
I mentioned that squash plant stems are prickly. Sometimes the squash itself will have tiny hairs covering the surface that can feel prickly as well.
I find it easiest to grab the neck of the squash and slide my hand down the squash itself first. This knocks off any of the tiny hairs that might poke my hand when I grab it directly. (Not all yellow squash varieties have this issue, so check yours.)
After I’ve wiped the tiny hairs off, I can grab the squash. I hold and stems out of the way gently with my other hand.
I twist the yellow squash gently. Usually about two turns in one direction is enough to get the squash off. It is harder to get larger squash off. The stem holding them in place gets tougher as they age.
If you miss a large squash and have to pick it late, hold the stem with one hand and the squash with the other. Gently twist and pull back on the squash while holding the plant. Be careful not to pull the plant out of the ground.
When you get the yellow squash picked, check the blossom end. There may be remnants of a bloom on it. That can be removed easily.
Rinse the squash off and let it dry before storing it or using it.
Recap of When to Pick Yellow Squash
Remember to pick squash earlier than what you may think. You don’t want the squash to develop seeds that are tough or skin that is tough. Even intense cooking won’t soften hard seeds and leathery skins. Younger squash have softer skin and tender seeds.
Harvest yellow squash when the squash are light yellow. They should be about six inches in length and the plump end should be about 1-1.5 inches in diameter.
If you notice any bad squash, pull them off of the plant and dispose of them. If you have a compost pile, put them into it. Pulling off bad squash will help your plant produce more healthy squash.
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