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Why Is My Squash Orange Inside

Cutting into a squash to reveal a surprise color is rarely good and can be downright off-putting. Unless it is a pumpkin or butternut squash, the orange color in your yellow squash or zucchini indicates something is incorrect. So this begs the question, why is my squash orange inside? 

The orange color in a yellow squash or zucchini signifies the fruit is over-ripened. This can happen if the fruit is left on the vine for too long before harvesting. They are likely still safe to consume, though the off-putting color is a good indication that the fruit is well past its prime. 

Continue reading to learn when you can pick your squash to avoid it turning color and what you might be able to do with some over-mature fruit.

Is it okay to eat orange zucchini? 

The flesh of your zucchini should be white or slightly yellow, so seeing orange inside is a sure sign that it has surpassed its peak flavor and texture. Improper storage or letting the squash sit on the vine for too long can cause the development of an orange color. While eating may not make you ill, it’s likely to be an unpleasant experience. 

A good squash will be firm when gently squeezed and have a deep, developed skin color suitable to your growing variety. Typically they will be average in size, as squash that is too large often will contain more seeds and generally be less appetizing than one of its smaller counterparts.

Squash that is a bit softer than usual can still be used, especially when mixed with other flavorful ingredients and cooked to mask the softened texture. Though, when a squash gets too soft and starts to turn brown or black, this shows that rot is beginning to set in, and the squash should be discarded. 

This reiterates the importance of harvesting your squash at the right time; if you leave it on the vine for too long, it sacrifices flavor for size. Harvest when your zucchini is about 6 inches long and is firm. This will ensure your bounty is flavorful and decrease the chances of having an off-colored product. 

Why is my squash orange and bumpy? 

Some squash varieties look bumpy by nature; there is nothing wrong with them, even if they look funky. Typically these varieties are decorative and are not meant for human consumption. 

Summer squash or other squash used for culinary purposes that develop discoloration and an uneven texture can be attributed to pests, excessive nutrients in the soil, or growth that occurred too quickly. Another common reason for deformities is due to mosaic virus.

Mosaic virus causes discoloration on leaves and fruit and can be spread by insects. This virus cannot be cured in plants, and while the fruit can still be eaten, the texture and flavor can be altered in severely affected plants. It is a plant-specific virus that does not affect humans, so it will not make anyone sick, though it is usually advised to destroy affected crops so the virus cannot be spread through insects to other plants in your garden.

Excessive calcium in the soil can cause a lumpy exterior to develop. However, this rarely leads to an inedible crop, unlike mosaic virus or if your plant is affected by borer insects or aphids.

These pests can be treated using natural insecticides or other remedies, and fruits should be unaffected once the plants are treated for these ailments. In the case of too much calcium, it can be leached out of the soil using a large volume of water.

In the future, care should be taken to prevent the build-up of calcium in the soil by properly dosing micronutrients for your plant. 

Strange textures or colors in your squash can be an easily solved problem or can destroy your crop, as in the case of mosaic virus. Monitoring your plant’s water intake and nutrient consumption is the best way to halt any issues that may appear to ensure you have a usable harvest. 

Can you get sick from squash? 

Fruits in the Cucurbitaceae family contain a compound known as cucurbitacin E, which can be toxic when consumed in excess. This compound developed in the plant as a bitter-tasting molecule to deter herbivory.

It is very rare, and it is easy to tell if you’ve got a squash that is too concentrated in this compound. A bitter-tasting squash is a sign that you should discontinue eating it, as cucurbitacin poisoning can cause severe gastrointestinal discomfort after eating just a few pieces. 

While it is rare, cucurbitacin concentration can depend on your area’s environmental factors. Contributing factors to a squash developing a large amount of the cucurbitacin compound can come from cross-pollination of other cucurbits that naturally have a higher concentration.

Other causes can be extreme temperature variances and a dehydrated crop for cucumber plants, though these factors don’t change the levels of cucurbitacin in summer squash and zucchini. 

Refrain from eating any squash that has “volunteered” in your garden or squashes labeled as ornamental. Choose reliable vendors for your cucurbits, or ensure you are harvesting squash varieties that have been planted using seeds from trustworthy merchants. 

Final Thoughts 

If you suspect something is not quite right with your squash, it likely is true. At best, the flavor or texture of the overripe fruits can be less than desirable, and at worst, you can get sick off of bitter-tasting squash. 

To prevent your squash from over-ripening, keep track of the growth when the fruits begin to mature. Summer squash such as yellow squash and zucchini develop quite quickly and can go bad within a few days if left on the vine for too long.

Winter squashes have a bit more leniency and usually require a hardening-off period, making them less likely to go rancid in long-term storage. 

It is always good to trust your gut when it comes to what you consume because it usually is right!