Wait until the fruit is fully colored, whether that means orange, blue-gray, white, or another hue. You can also look at the stem, which begins to shrivel and turns hard when the fruit is ripe. Yet another clue is the rind: It should be hard enough that you can't dent or puncture it with a fingernail. If in doubt, leave winter squash and pumpkins to ripen for another week or so, since the fruit isn't harmed by leaving it in the garden. Do bring in winter squash if a hard frost is predicted: Although the fruits won't be completely ruined by a freeze, they won't store well, and you'll need to use them right away. Cut winter squash from the vines, and leave at least a 2"/5 cm-long stem attached to each fruit.Reprinted from The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book Copyright 2008 by Barbara W. Ellis, with permission from Storey Publishing. Creative Commons photo credit: Niquinho
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