Squash is one of our family's favorite fruits—yep, I said fruit, not vegetable! It has a sweet, rich flavor that compliments any meal, no matter the time of day. Unfortunately, squash does not typically ripen after it's been picked, and an underripe or overripe squash can be flavorless or mushy. So how do you choose wisely at the grocery store or farmer's market? Read on:

 

 

How to choose ripe squash

  • Size: Look at the size of the squash. A ripe squash will be anywhere from 8–12 inches long with the stem intact. Why is the stem so important? It actually prevents the squash from drying out too fast!
  • Color: The color of a ripe squash varies depending on the type. Get out your no. 2 pencils and paper, kids. It's time for a quick lesson:
    • Butternut squash: Look for a deep tan color.
    • Acorn squash: It will have a dark green color with splashes of orange (which is a sign of maturity).
    • Hubbard squash: These guys are a bit funny looking with pale grayish/blue or dark green skin.
    • Spaghetti squash: This squash will have a bright-yellow hue when it's ripe.
  • Appearance: No matter the variety of squash, be sure that there are no bruises, mold or blemishes, which indicate overripeness or damage.
  • Heft: Hold the squash in the palm of your hand. A ripe squash will feel solid and heavy for its size.
  • Tap it: Just like with a watermelon, rap that squash with your knuckle. A ripe squash will sound hollow inside.
  • Firmness: Look at the texture of the squash's skin. Is it firm and smooth? If so, it's likely ripe. Press into the squash with your fingernail. Your nail should not be able to puncture the skin. If it does, put that squash back—it's not ripe! Do this gently—stop before your nail actually goes through the skin, if possible. After all, you don't want to damage all the produce!

How to store

Once you cut your squash, wrap it in plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container. It will stay good in the refrigerator for a week or longer. An uncut squash will last for about three months in a cool, dark place (like the bottom of your pantry). Don't put an uncut squash in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures can actually encourage moisture loss and make the squash spoil faster.

How to use

  •  Add squash to a savory dish like squash soup, squash casserole or even squash crab cakes.
  • Try squash in sweet treats too! Add it to your favorite pumpkin bread recipe, or quarter your squash and roast it with butter and brown sugar. You can also blend it up and make squash cheesecake bars.
How to Choose Ripe Squash