Squash is a versatile and nutritious choice for many meals.
To keep squash fresh:
- Harvest summer squash when young and vibrant, using visual cues such as glossy skin and a firm texture.
- Store summer squash in the fridge, inside a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer, for up to seven days.
- Keep winter squash in a cool, dry place where they can last for one to three months.
- Freeze any type of squash to extend its shelf life up to a year; blanch summer squash and cook winter squash before freezing.
- Use frozen squash within a year for the best flavor, and thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.
I always advise my friends to pick summer squash at their peak for the best flavor. I make sure they’re clean and store them in a cool spot or in the fridge with plenty of air circulation. For winter squash, the rind is a natural preserver, but if I have an abundance, freezing is my go-to.
It’s as simple as blanching or cooking the squash before sealing it tightly in freezer bags. Whenever I want a splash of summer in my dishes, I grab my frozen squash. It’s incredibly easy and affordable and ensures that my meals are delicious and nutrient-packed throughout the year.
Squash makes a tasty and nutritious addition to a meal. Whether it’s served as a side dish or as the main course, keeping squash fresh is vital for getting the most flavor. So, how long does squash last? That depends on the type of squash you have.
When learning how to keep squash fresh, there are lots of varieties. Although most squash types are similar in shelf life, learning about each kind is the safest way to know exactly how long you get to hold on to each. “In my experience, familiarizing yourself with the different squash varieties can really help you maximize their freshness,” suggests Stella Hatfield, a knowledgeable practitioner in food storage and preservation.
Squash is an overall broad subject. Although these veggies are similar, most people split them into two categories: summer squash and winter squash. The most noticeable difference between these two categories is the thickness of the skin.
When to Harvest Summer Squash
When growing squash in your garden, it’s essential to know when the prime time is to harvest your summer squash. Summer squashes include zucchini, crookneck squash, pattypan squash, zephyr squash, cousa squash, and more.
Harvest long-shaped veggies when they are six to eight inches and round types when they are three to six inches in diameter. These veggies have glossy skin and can be pierced by a fingernail once ready to be eaten.
Remember that younger summer squashes tend to have more flavor and be more tender. If you don’t grow your squash, there are things you can look for to pick out a fresh squash at the grocery store.
Keep your eyes peeled for veggies that are vibrant in color. The freshest ones will be free from blemishes, cuts, and soft spots. The way to tell when spaghetti squash is gone bad or other squashes is to note mushy areas. Do not buy squash or cucumbers with wrinkly skin, as these are bad cucumber signs.
Summer squash is always harvested at a young age, making the skin much more tender and full of flavor.
On the other hand, winter squash has a thick, tough rind that protects it from the cold temperatures and autumn frost. This thickness also means the skin isn’t ideal for eating. Now that you know the difference, how long do squash last?
How Long Does Squash Last for Summer Varieties?
Depending on how freshly picked your squash is, there is an average amount of time that summer squash lasts. Fresh summer squash typically has a shelf life of up to five days on the counter.
When you pick your veggies or bring them home from the store, wipe the fruit clean with a damp paper cloth. Store them in a dark place for the best results.
On the other hand, storing these types of squash in the fridge lends you an extra couple of days. After wiping the squash down with a damp paper towel, place it in a plastic bag, and poke small holes in the bag to allow it to breathe.
Place the bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge for up to seven days. Be careful with this storage method because summer squash is susceptible to damage from overly cold temperatures and may start decaying your vegetables.
When to Harvest Winter Squash
Winter squashes require a little more work before cooking them. These squashes include butternut squash, delicata squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and various pumpkin varieties.
These veggies are picked much later in the year and have a thicker skin and harder seeds. They also require longer cooking times compared to the summer varieties.
When harvesting or purchasing winter squash, look for the ones that are heavy and have dry stems. Steer clear of vegetables with cuts or soft spots.
Many winter squashes have a pale spot on the bottom from where it was resting on the ground, which is normal and means it got picked at the right time.
How Long Do Squash Last for Winter Varieties?
Keeping squash fresh in this category is much easier because they tend to last longer. How long is butternut squash good for? Most winter squashes last for one to three months. This time applies to both storing them on the counter and when you refrigerate them.
How to Keep Squash Fresh Longer
Regardless of how long a fresh squash lasts, there is always one foolproof way to make most vegetables last for a much longer time.
Can you freeze spaghetti squash or zucchini? Yes! Freezing summer and winter squash is the best strategy for keeping squash fresh for as long as possible. This storage method shows you how to keep squash fresh for up to a year.
How long does spaghetti squash stay fresh? The refrigerator is the best option if you plan to use the squash within several days.
How long does a head of cabbage last in the refrigerator? Unpeeled cabbage can last up to two months when stored in this way.
How to Freeze Summer Squash
Unlike winter squash, summer squash requires blanching before freezing it. Blanching is a technique used when freezing most vegetables because it stops the enzymes from breaking down your food and helps it hold onto its bright colors.
For the best way to freeze squash, wash a fresh summer squash in cold tap water. Cut the stems off the vegetable, then cut it into one-inch chunks or slices. Bring a pot of water to a boil and set the pieces in the boiling water for three minutes.
Immediately dunk the squash in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Use a slotted spoon to take the chunks from the ice water and dry the pieces thoroughly on a paper towel.
Place the squash pieces in a freezer bag or airtight container. How long does squash last in the freezer? Store these squash chunks in the freezer for up to one year.
How to Freeze Winter Squash
The fruit body of winter squash is much more rigid than the summer varieties. Because of this, cooking the squash before freezing makes it easier to throw into soups or other dishes for a quick meal.
To start preserving butternut squash, peel the outer skin off entirely. Cut the squash in two and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon. Dice the squash into one to two-inch chunks and preheat your oven to 400°F.
Place the winter squash on a baking dish, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until the pieces are tender all the way through.
At this point, either put the cooked squash in a freezer bag and store it in the freezer, or puree the squash in a food processor, put it in an airtight container, and freeze it. Purees are easily added to soups and pies.
How long does butternut squash last after freezing? Squash kept this way lasts up to a year but it tastes better if used sooner. It’s best to thaw frozen butternut squash in the fridge overnight before using it in your favorite recipe.
Summer and winter squashes are some of our favorite meal enhancers. They add a boost of essential nutrients to our favorite meals and soak up the flavors that they cook with.
These veggies are adaptable in many ways, and keeping squash fresh is a reasonably simple thing to do. Regardless of your favorite type of squash, knowing how to keep squash fresh is essential for our fellow squash lovers out there.
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