Acorn squash, also known as pepper squash is a winter squash, and a cousin of summer squashes like zucchini. Green on the outside and bright yellow-orange inside, it gets its name because of its shape similar to an acorn. Acorn squash has a mild, nutty, yet buttery flavor. It is similar to pumpkin but sweeter.
Acorn squash is not only a delicious treat for you, but they are incredibly healthy for you as well. The acorn squash contains a high amount of vitamin C, a nutrient that promotes a healthier immune system. It is also an excellent source of vitamin B for you which can be helpful in blood cell production and boost your metabolism. It also has a good amount of dietary fiber which is helpful for your digestion and potassium so it is healthy to consume acorn squash. Considering the number of benefits the acorn squash gives you, you should deeply consider planting yourself one as soon as possible!
For any gardener, growing this variety of squash is an easy and fun activity. It can be grown in most climates but the ideal time is early fall through the winter season. As long as the winter season has long passed and the soil is warm you can grow this plant yourself without much-needed effort on your part. It needs fertile soil that is well-drained and with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 for the best results. It’s useful to know how and when to harvest acorn squash to ensure you get the ripest and tastiest yield.
Growing Acorn Squash
An important factor when growing acorn squash is the space you have and how you can provide ideal conditions to the plant. You will need to allow adequate space to grow acorn squash successfully. The soil temperature should be up to 60 F. (15 C).
However, the plant needs protection from frost so wait until the danger of frost has passed. Two weeks after the last expected date of frost would be your prime planting time, though this largely depends on what sort of climate do you have in your area. You may need to check your local climate online or through a chart in your country to determine which time is optimal to planting your acorn squash. Just like any winter type squash, the acorn squash cannot be picked before they are ripe.
If you want to plant your acorns squash as soon as winter ends, then you may want to prepare them before even winter is over. You can do this by planting the acorn squash indoors first and transplanting them later on.
You will need some 3-inch wide pots for the seeds for planting them indoors. Fill the pots with some soil and seed mix and then sprinkle them with warm water, and while you are at it, wrap your seeds with a warm damp towel for a few hours. After you have prepared the soil and the seeds are now all nice and warm, simply bury the seeds one inch deep into the soil. You will see the seeds sprout within 5-12 days.
When you have seen that your seeds have sprouted and winter has long passed and the ground is now soft, then you may start transplanting the seedlings outdoors. Strive to plant your seedling when the ground has warmed up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).
Your acorn squash feeds heavily and requires rich soil with a good amount of all-purpose fertilizer regularly. Also, remember that the plant needs plenty of full sunlight. Your acorn squash will grow much bigger than what it is now, so the spot that you have chosen should not overshadow some of your vegetables in your garden.
The best method to grow acorn squash is planting seeds directly in the garden or container. You should be sowing 1 seed every 2 square feet. It is highly recommended to grow the plant on a hill. Alternatively, you could use mounds of soil. Planting your acorn squash on top of a mound is ideal since it ensures that the roots don’t rot since they will need to be watered frequently.
You must keep the soil well-watered without making it excessively wet, and simply just make sure that the soil won’t dry out. When the acorn squash seedlings have grown about 2 inches, you should start spacing them out. This ensures that plants won’t compete with each other for space, nutrients, or water.
Constantly be on the lookout for some weeds, and as soon as you see some of them pluck them out immediately to the roots. If the weeds are a constant problem for you, place some mulch around your acorn squash seedlings.
When to Harvest Acorn Squash
Once you have set up a home for your squash to grow, you will start wondering when to harvest acorn squash. The harvest date will depend on the planting date. Keep in mind that the squash needs a growing season of at least three and a half months in full sun.
The appropriate time to harvest acorn squash begins around 80 to 100 days following the first sprout. This would be around September or October. Around this time, temperatures will also fall low with almost freezing nights. The plants’ leaves and the vine will dry out and die. It is best to harvest it on time because the frost can quickly damage the produce. In fact, frost affected squash won’t store well. If it has soft spots, it must be discarded.
You can check the color as a reliable indicator of when to harvest acorn squash. Ripe acorn squash should have turned into a dark green color. The part of the fruit which was in contact with the soil should change from yellow to deep orange. You can also check the texture of the fruits’ skin. Check how tough the skin is. If it does not puncture easily, the acorn squash is ready for harvest.
Wondering how to harvest acorn squash the right way? You should use a sharp knife or shears to remove the acorn squash from its’ vine. Remember to leave about an inch remaining attached to the squash.
Unripe Acorn Squash
A dark green color, with smooth, dull skin is an important indicator of ripeness. An unripe acorn squash simply does not develop the right texture, color, and flavor.
It is easy to detect a squash unfit for use. Unripe squash would also taste too bland- with an extra watery texture and bad storage capacity. The weight of the squash is a good cue to check for ripeness. A good acorn squash would feel dense enough in the hand. But if it’s too light, it means the fruit has dried out and lost too much water. The flesh will also be somewhat stringy. In this case, it simply won’t be tasty anymore.
You must look out for blemishes or mold on the surface of the fruit. You can slice it open and also check the seeds to be sure. If the seeds have turned gray and slimy- your acorn squash has gone bad.
Acorn Squash Recipe
There are lots of delicious acorn squash recipes that are ideal for the fall and can be perfect as comfort food. One of the must-try recipes is ‘Baked Acorn Squash’ using brown sugar, butter, and maple syrup. When baked with the squash, this makes for a hearty, satisfying snack.
For a more savory main course using acorn squash, you can try ‘Herb Roasted Acorn Squash with Parmesan’. It is as mouthwatering as it sounds! Vegetarian stuffed acorn squash is also a great choice for non-meat lovers.
For a light and tasty appetizer, you can toss a spicy squash salad with a variety of dressings like this ‘Spicy Squash Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing’ from Martha Stewart
Acorn squash is incredibly versatile. It works in both sweet and savory dishes. Enjoy it stuffed, baked, roasted, mashed, and incorporated in food, or even pureed into sauces.
Is Acorn Squash Good For You?
Yes, acorn squash is considered a highly nutritious and healthy food (as well as being very tasty of course!). It is a low-calorie food that is high in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Here are some of the health benefits of eating acorn squash:
- Nutrient-dense: Acorn squash is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, and iron. It also contains small amounts of calcium, zinc, and folate.
- High in fiber: Acorn squash is a good source of dietary fiber, which promotes digestive health, lowers cholesterol levels, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- Boosts immune system: The high levels of vitamin A and C in acorn squash help boost the immune system, protect against infections, and promote healthy skin.
- Antioxidant-rich: Acorn squash is a good source of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and other carotenoids that protect against cellular damage and chronic diseases.
- Low in calories: Acorn squash is low in calories, with one cup containing only around 56 calories. This makes it a great food to include in weight-loss diets. Personally we love this because it means we can eat even more!
Under the right conditions, you can easily store acorn squash for several months after harvest. It can store up to a month in a cool, dark root cellar with a temperature of about 50 to 55 F. You can also refrigerate it for up to two weeks. However, you should only keep cooked or cut the acorn squash in the fridge. It cannot tolerate temperatures below 50 F and too much chill can damage it.
An easy plant to grow, with an abundant yield, a unique flavor, and lots of versatility-acorn squash can be your next gardening venture. Keep in mind that this squash does not ripen off the vine so timing is everything, especially when to harvest acorn squash. You will surely enjoy using this interesting and tasty fruit in your garden and in your recipes.
Now that we have discussed how to grow and when to harvest acorn squash, do you have any thoughts or tips you would like to share? Or some questions perhaps? Comment below! We also offer some guides as well such as How to Grow Kiwi and How To Grow Mint.