Identifying a ripe, over-ripe and bad acorn squash can be quite difficult, especially for people who don’t know much about this delicious fruit.
How do you tell if acorn squash is bad? Acorn squash can last 3-4 weeks in a cool and dry place. It is best stored over the counter and will usually become dull, squishy, and turn yellow when it goes bad. However, there are a few other signs that you need to look out for too.
Read below to learn more about this versatile squash, how to tell if it has gone bad, and the best way to store it!
What Is Acorn Squash?
Acorn squash is a variety of winter squash that comes close to butternut squash and spaghetti squash.
It has a deep green color and can also have small patches of yellow on it too. It is called an acorn squash because it looks like a very large acorn!
This squash has a mild flavor with buttery and nutty notes. The skin of the fruit is completely edible and you can cook it whole in different ways!
Characteristics Of Acorn Squash
To understand the difference between a ripe and bad acorn squash, let’s first define the characteristics of a perfectly healthy and edible squash.
Acorn squash comes in multiple shades of green but is usually found in a shiny dark green color. The color of the fruit can tell a lot about the overall health of the squash.
This winter squash is also available in yellow and a mix of yellow, orange, and green. The fruit turns yellow as it matures and eventually starts to go bad.
If you are looking for the best quality squash then make sure that the squash has a shiny outer surface with a dark green color.
Another point about its color is that when the squash is stored over a flat surface and is left undisturbed for several weeks, it can become yellow around the area that was in contact with the surface.
This is due to oxidization and is completely normal – in fact, most people take this as a sign of the fruit being ready for consumption!
Flavor And Texture
As explained, acorn squash has a buttery texture and a nutty flavor with hints of butter in it.
Most people who eat it for the first time are usually surprised by how mild-tasting the fruit is because it otherwise appears to have the characteristics of a sweet fruit.
However, its mild buttery and nutty flavor and texture are one of the reasons why acorn squash is beloved! It provides an excellent base for multiple flavors.
You can mix literally any type of savory, fruity or salty ingredient with it and it will still turn out great.
The best way to eat acorn squash is to bake it with a bit of butter and a dash of brown sugar or maple syrup.
Once the outer skin of the fruit softens, it becomes fully tender and delicious and can take on the flavor of the ingredients added to it. You can roast, bake, boil, fry, and even air fry acorn squash!
How To Use Acorn Squash
The best way to get the most out of this fruit is to bake it! While it can also be cooked via microwave and other heating methods, baking provides the squash with a steady temperature that renders the pulp and skin.
To use it, cut the squash on both ends to create a flat surface. Be careful during this step because the skin of the squash can be quite hard and you would need a very sharp knife to work with it.
Cutting the ends of the squash will help stabilize the squash and will also give you a firm grip when you run a knife through its thick skin.
Acorn squash has multiple ridges that go around the fruit which is why the best way to cut it is to slice it through to make wedges.
Start with the tip of the knife and firmly insert it into the fruit. Please keep your hands away from the blade and don’t move the squash around while cutting it.
Keep the squash firmly pressed down with one hand while you slice it through with a knife using the other hand.
Once you have cut the squash in half or wedges, take a spoon or a small knife and gently scoop through the pulp to remove the seeds.
You don’t want to cut the seeds out as it may remove a lot of the pulp that is attached to them. Just a simple scoop should be enough to clear everything out.
Signs Of Spoilage
Acorn squash can last about 3-4 weeks over the counter. It is best stored in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight.
Yes, the best way to store acorn squash is to keep it out of the fridge. If you store it in the fridge then the squash may go bad within the week due to either too much moisture or dryness.
Just keep the squash in a cabinet or over the countertop and you should be good for about a month!
However, in some cases, they can also go bad. Here are some signs to look out for:
Remember, the outside skin of the fruit has a shine to it. So, if you notice any dullness then that might indicate that the fruit has started to go bad or has been compromised internally.
If the squash turns from green to dark yellow, then this could indicate that it has gone bad or is overripe.
Sometimes, you might even notice black spots around the squash. These are known to be caused by oxidative stress and can signal bacterial growth as well.
As a general rule of thumb, if you notice any discoloration on the surface of the fruit along with the other signs below, then it’s best to discard it!
Foul Odor and Texture
Rotten acorn squash will have a very off-putting scent. It may smell musty or have a very foul odor.
The odor is caused by bacterial growth so there is no use in salvaging the fruit by only removing the affected area. Once the fruit shows signs of spoilage, you should assume that it has become fully compromised.
Also, feel around the squash for indents or mushy spots. These are also a dead giveaway for rot. Acorn squash has a very firm outer skin.
Use your fingers to detect any dents and gently press down on them to confirm if they are mushy or squishy.
If there are two or multiple spots like this then you should just get another squash.
If you don’t see any other sign of spoilage except for grey or dull seeds then this would also indicate that the fruit has gone bad and that you should probably just discard it.
Acorn squash seeds are light yellow or golden and can turn grey when they go bad.
This may also hint toward the initial stages of bacterial growth which is why you should assume that the entire squash has been contaminated.
How To Store Acorn Squash
Storing acorn squash depends on a few different factors, such as whether it’s cooked, uncooked, or cut into pieces.
Raw acorn squash should be stored in a fruit cellar. Keep the fruit away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat. If kept properly, acorn squash can last about 1 month at room temperature!
Cooked Or Cut Squash
If you have cut the squash then it’s best to store it in an airtight container or plastic bag. Keeping the squash in the fridge should keep it fresh for about 2-3 days.
The same storage indication should also be followed for cooked squash.
Try to consume the fruit within 48 hours for the best flavor and always check for signs of spoilage before consumption.
Acorn squash is a resilient and versatile fruit that can be enjoyed in several ways. Now that you know how it can go bad and how best to store it, here are some related questions!
Can acorn squash be frozen?
Freezing an acorn squash is usually only recommended when the fruit has been cut or cooked. While you could freeze a whole squash in the freezer, it may encourage bacterial growth and rot as the fruit thaws.
Remember, the best way to enjoy an acorn squash is to keep it at room temperature and away from excess moisture!
Can you eat raw acorn squash?
Acorn squash can be consumed raw but you may run into problems when trying to eat the outer skin.
The skin of this squash is very firm and is supposed to be rendered via heat before it is consumed. Make sure you wash the fruit and remove any wax from it before cooking it for the best experience.
What goes well with acorn squash?
Acorn squash can be enjoyed on its own or it can also be paired with ingredients like bacon, butter, cheese, maple syrup, fruits, jams, jellies, brown sugar, fruit compote, and much more.
This squash is best enjoyed grilled or fried in a ring, also called “acorn rings”.
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