When to pick Summer squash?

leira(6 MA)July 11, 2009

OK, this feels like a dumb question, since ordinarily, I know exactly when to pick Summer squash...but what I'm seeing is a bit unusual.

Having run out of Summer squash seeds (not to mention getting a bit of a late start), I decided to buy transplants at the big box store. They are labeled simply "Straightneck Summer Squash," so I don't know the cultivar. It is a bush variety.

They started blooming, and started setting fruit. I looked at the small (and quite short, I'll add) developing squashes, and thought, "I'll pick those when they get a little bit longer."

Except...I'm not convinced that they're getting longer. They are, however, getting fatter, especially on the seed end. They are otherwise shaped like you'd expect a Summer squash to be shaped, just quite short and (increasingly) stout.

Are there some varieties that remain quite short? Are there some varieties that get a swollen seed end even when they aren't approaching over-ripe? Could this be related to it being the first few squashes on the plant? The plants are huge, healthy, and producing a prolific number blossoms, both male and female.

Most of all, I suppose...is the swelling seed end an indication that I probably ought to pick these squashes ASAP, even though the overall size of the squash remains quite tiny?

Of course, I could probably answer my own question by picking one and cutting it open, to examine the maturity of the seeds inside...but I'm reluctant to pick too early, and therefore fail to get enough squash for dinner.


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spaghetina(SF Bay Area)

Mine are all the first few squash of the season, and have been really short and squatty too. I left them for days and days, and they basically stayed the same size, very unlike zucchini, so I cut them off today, and they were perfectly ripe.

I'd say the biggest one I picked was only about 5" long. One was about 4" with a fat, bulbous end, and one was about 4", but still straight and skinnyish. I forgot to take pictures, and it was my first real straightneck harvest too. :(

They all tasted good. :)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 4:11PM
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Most straightneck cultivars will be club shaped. Pick them between three and 6 inches in lenght. Like everything else, some are better than others.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 4:13PM
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I am growing a straightneck Butterstick variety. Mine Have been growing thinker necks, like a zucchini. I am very pleased with these. I have been picking mine when they are about 6-7" With this variety they grow thick all the way down, and when the body starts to swell bigger than the rest of it, I pick it. I have been hand pollinating my squash and zucchini. I have been picking them about 8 days after pollination.

Just picked a 9" zucchini.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 4:32PM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

I personally like them a bit older than that -- 8-10" suits me.

I think that squash have the best flavor after the seeds have begun to develop but before they start to get hard. :-)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 7:58PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

When they start to get fat, they are just developing seeds. You don't want that.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 11:42PM
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