Sumo Gardener

6 Ways to Know When to Pick Butternut Squash

Are you struggling to decide if your butternut squash is ripe?

Determining when to pick butternut squash is difficult. The hard shell can and long growth period make selection tricky.

A ripe butternut squash is creamy, sweet and nutty; it is a favorite vegetable during autumn and winter. However, a squash that is picked too soon or too late will be nutty; it is a favorite vegetable during autumn and winter.

6 Ways to Know When to Pick Butternut Squash

However, a squash that is picked to soon or too late will be dried out or mushy. It will have no flavor, and your dinner will be ruined.

Look at the Stem

checking Butternut Squash stem

Like other squash, the stem will be green during growth. When the squash reaches maturity, the color of the stem will turn from green to brown. It also starts to dry out because the plant stops transferring nutrients to the squash. This is one the signs that I depend on upon.

When a butternut squash is past the time of picking, the stem will come off very easily. Mold often finds its way on the stem of older squash. Be sure to check carefully. If you notice mold at all, don’t risk the danger it poses.

When to pick Butternut squash

Test the Shell

A ripe butternut squash will have a firm shell. It is this hard, protective shell that makes determining ripeness tricky. A ripe squash will not have any give to touch.

To test the shell, press your fingers or your fingernails. A fresh, ripe butternut squash will not dent and will resist puncture. Your fingers shouldn’t cause any damage. If your fingernail causes a dent, it isn’t time to harvest.

  • Here is another tip I always use. When you pick your butternut squash, make sure it has a longer stem. This is because a closer cropped stem will cause the squash to go bad sooner. I always use this tip when I don’t plan to eat the squash immediately.

Check the Color

Check the color of Butternut squash

As butternut squash are forming, they are a yellow green tone with vertical lines. Over time, they mature, and those lines begin to fade. It is at this time that squashes start to transition to the beige color.

Even though butternut squash doesn’t turn brown like bananas or other fruit, you will still notice a color difference. Ripe squashes will have a soft, matte color. A surface color that is spotted, shiny or waxy indicates a butternut squash that isn’t good for picking.

The look of the squash is important to note. An ideal butternut squash is a beige color; the darker the better. Also, check for cuts or blemishes along the skin.

There should not be any signs of green on the butternut squash. I have made this mistake before, and my dinner didn’t turn out the way that I hoped. The squash was far from ready.

What is the Weight?

Check butternut squash weight


If you are deciding when to pick a butternut squash, check to see if it is heavy. A ripe squash will feel slightly heavy in comparison to its size. This is because a fresh squash is full of moisture.

It can be hard to tell what a squash should weigh. When you are determining when to pick butternut squash, check for the greenest one. Then, compare the weight of the one you want to pick and the greenest. This is how I check the weight, and it is an easy system.


when to pick butternut squash


Butternut squashes will grow to a length of 8 to 12 inches. However, the size will vary because they grow at different rates depending on nutrients and soil conditions. Watch the size of the squash. Once growth stops, it is ready to pick.

Growth generally stops between four and five months after the seeds were planted. This will take place between September and October. Mark the date when you planted the seeds so you know when to check.

Tap It

Maybe you have noticed people tapping on squashes and melons in the grocery store. This is because a ripe squash sounds hollow when you tap on the exterior. If the squash isn’t ripe or is bad, it won’t sound hollow.

I often test my eggs for fresh with a water test. You can use a water test to determine if a squash is bad as well. Once you have used the other methods to determine freshness, place your squash in a large bucket of water. Just like an egg, a rotten squash will float to the surface.

Taking the time to determine when to pick butternut squash is important for all gardeners. Butternut squash is the perfect fall crop to harvest. In proper storage, it can last for nine months and provide fresh meals throughout the cold winter meals.

  • Look at the color and stem before selection. Neither should be green.
  • Check the weight and length before selection; the ripe butternut squash will be at least 8 inches long and feel heavy for its size.
  • Make sure the shell is firm and will not dent. Give it a good tap as well before harvesting.

If you follow all of these steps, you are sure to select a ripe, delicious butternut squash. Delicious meals will soon be on your horizon.

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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