Pumpkins are great for cooking as well as carving. If you’re growing them for the first time and are curious about the harvesting process, you’ve come to the right place. Learn how and when exactly to harvest pumpkins.
It usually takes pumpkins about 80 to 100 frost-free days to fully grow. It’s harvest time when your pumpkin has grown to its full extent and the vines start to wither and die. It’s also best to harvest your pumpkins if the vines are rotting as it is unlikely for them to grow any further. Harvesting pumpkins is tricky business. Along with ensuring that you cut the stem a few inches from the pumpkin to avoid early rotting, there are other technicalities you need to take care of.
Planting, growing and harvesting pumpkins can be time-consuming and a hefty task but the hassle is almost always worth it. They are American natives and require a long growing season. If you provide them with the necessary care and fulfill its required conditions, your pumpkins will thrive and your harvest will be successful. Let’s first talk about when to harvest pumpkin and then we can move forward to the actual process.
- When to Harvest Pumpkins
- How to Harvest Pumpkins
- Storage after Harvest
- When do pumpkins turn orange?
- How to tell when pumpkins are ripe?
- How long do pumpkins last off the vine?
- What month of the year are pumpkins usually ready for picking?
- What’s next?
- Post Harvest Pumpkin Storage: Learn How How To Store Pumpkins
- Pumpkin Harvest Information
- How to Store Pumpkins
- How To: Preserve a Pumpkin
- Preserving a Carved Pumpkin
- Preserving an Uncarved Pumpkin
- When Should You Carve Your Pumpkin?
- How Early Can You Carve A Pumpkin?
- How Long Do Pumpkins Last After Carving Them?
- How To Preserve Carved Pumpkins – The First Step
- How To Make A Carved Pumpkin Last By Applying A Pumpkin Bleach Solution
- How To Keep Jack O Lanterns From Rotting With Borax Rich Pumpkin Preservation Sprays
- How To Keep Carved Pumpkin Fresh With Rubbing Alcohol or Floor Cleaner
- How To Preserve Pumpkins With Acrylic Finish Spray or Hair Spray
- How To Keep Carved Pumpkins Fresh With WD-40
- How To Prevent Pumpkins From Rotting With Petroleum Jelly Sealant/ Tabasco with Vaseline
- How To Preserve A Pumpkin After Carving With Vegetable Oils
- How To Make A Carved Pumpkin Last Longer By Avoiding Exposure To Sunlight
- How To Stop A Pumpkin From Rotting By Hydrating The Pumpkins
- When to Harvest Pumpkins
- How to Harvest Pumpkins
- How to Cure and Store Pumpkins
- Pumpkin Shelf Life
- How To Tell If A Pumpkin Is Bad
- Do Pumpkin Seeds Go Bad?
- How Long Does A Carved Pumpkin Last?
- How Long Can Pumpkin Pie Sit Out?
- Does Pumpkin Pie Have To Be Refrigerated?
- How Long Does Pumpkin Puree Last?
- Can You Freeze Canned Pumpkin?
- How To Store Pumpkins
- When should you buy your pumpkin?
- When should you carve your pumpkin?
- How to make your jack-o-lantern last longer
- The Fix
When to Harvest Pumpkins
There are a few tactics to know that your pumpkin fruit is ripe enough to be harvested. Although distinctive species require different periods of time to grow mature, the process is identical for all pumpkins. Here’s more information about how to grow pumpkins successfully, and as well as a post about how long it takes to grow pumpkins from seed to fruit.
Once you’ve selected your site, planted the seeds, and provided your plant with the optimum soil and other necessary requirements, you wait for the blooms to appear. After their appearance and successful pollination, your pumpkin fruit begins to grow. Here’s a post explaining how many pumpkins to expect per vine.
Now there are a few factors you need to consider after the pumpkin growth stage to figure out if it’s harvest time or not.
Firstly if there are no signs of frost in your surroundings, the foliage and the vines are really healthy and thriving, know that your pumpkin is going to continue to grow. However, if the case is opposite; the foliage is attacked by pests, diseases and severe infections then the leaves and vines will wither and die. Once that happens, there won’t be any foliage left for your fruit to feed on and no matter the size of your pumpkins, harvest them as they won’t be growing any further.
Once you’ve figured out if your pumpkin plant is healthy or not move to the fingernail test. All you need to do is poke your fingernail in the pumpkin rind. The rind needs to be firm; if you harvest it when it’s too soft then your fruit is likely to rot in a few days. If the pumpkin has completely achieved its color according to the variety you have planted and your fingernail doesn’t leave an imprint then it’s time to harvest.
You can also check the vine and the stems to know the harvest time, although it’s not a mandatory step. See that the plant isn’t infected in any way and the vine starts to dry off and pull away from the pumpkin stems. The vine may wither, twist and become drier. If you see these signs on the main vine, you’ve executed the fingernail test, and your pumpkin has fully developed its respective color then it’s time to enjoy the fruitful outcomes of your hard work and efforts!
Once you’ve established that your pumpkin is, in fact, ready to be harvested, move to the next step.
How to Harvest Pumpkins
Here is a step by step procedure to harvest your precious pumpkins:
A jagged blade might cause diseases to occur in the pumpkin and encourage early rotting. Therefore it’s essential to start by cutting the stem with sharp pruning shears or a knife. Make sure you cut the stem several inches from the pumpkin. Twisting and pulling your pumpkin directly from the vine might be enticing once you see your fruit ready but as they say, just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean it is better. Doing so can cause your pumpkin fruit to damage.
Cut your pumpkin using a pair of sharp pruning shears or gardening scissors from the vine and leave a few inches of the stem connected to the fruit while making your cut. In case you remove the stem completely, it is best practice to consume the fruit as early as possible as it will probably spoil. If you see that your pumpkin has softened, is overripe, or has already spoilt before harvest, then use it for compost rather than letting it go to waste.
Now use 10% bleach solution to wipe and disinfect your pumpkin after harvest. Any harmful organisms residing on the pumpkin will be killed. If you wish to eat the pumpkin the same day, wait for a few hours for the solution to evaporate and wash thoroughly before consuming it.
Once you’ve successfully harvested your fruit, move to the next step.
Storage after Harvest
If you want to store your pumpkins for a long period, wash them with a mild chlorine solution. Make a solution of chlorine and water in a ratio of 1 to 16 parts respectively. This will help in destroying any bacteria that may cause the pumpkins to rot. Let the pumpkins dry completely.
Store your fruit in a warm place where the temperature is around 25ºC for about 2 weeks. This will ensure a longer life span. After this, store your fruit in a cool, dry place with temperatures between 10ºC to 12ºC.
Here are some other things to know about pumpkin storage:
- Pumpkins can typically be stored from one to three months.
- It is good practice to store pumpkins in a cool, dry, and dark place. Hot and humid areas are to be avoided at all times.
- They are best stored on a piece of cardboard. Do not keep them on a cement floor or a rug.
- You can also freeze your pumpkins to increase their life span. Simply cut the pumpkin into small pieces, and bake, boil, or steam them. Remove the soft fruit from the skin and store in an air-tight jar in the freezer. You can freeze the cubes directly or mash the pumpkin into a puree before freezing.
Following are the answers to some frequently asked questions related to pumpkin harvest:
When do pumpkins turn orange?
All pumpkins fully develop their color once they reach their harvest time. As they continue to grow, they keep forming a brighter color. After your pumpkin plant has successfully passed through all its growth stages, its color turns into a vibrant and beautiful orange.
Note: The color of the pumpkin will depend on the variety you’ve planted. Make sure you check with the manufacturer of the seeds to know what color will your pumpkin form once it has fully grown.
How to tell when pumpkins are ripe?
Following are four ways to check if your pumpkins are ripe:
When a pumpkin has grown completely, it develops its color all the way around. They are usually of a bright-orange shade, but the colors differ according to the variety of pumpkin you’ve planted.
Give your pumpkin a thump, if it sounds hollow then it is very likely that the pumpkin has grown mature and is ready for harvest.
Fingernail test can be performed to check the ripeness of a pumpkin. Simply jab your fingernail in the rind, if it punctures or dents then the fruit isn’t ripe yet.
When the stem starts to dry off, twist, shrivel and turn hard then your pumpkin is ripe and ready for harvest.
How long do pumpkins last off the vine?
If stored properly, pumpkins last for 4-9 weeks off the vine. Cut the stem a few inches from the pumpkin and store your fruit in a warm place where the temperature is around 77ºF for about 14 days. After this, store your fruit in a cool, dry place with temperatures between 50ºF to 54ºF. If you want them to last longer than this period, use freezing or canning methods to ensure a longer life span.
What month of the year are pumpkins usually ready for picking?
As pumpkins need frost-free days and warm soil to thrive, you need to plant the seeds keeping the harvest time in mind. It is best practice to harvest pumpkins in late September or early October before heavy frosts settle in.
For a successful harvest, you need to provide proper maintenance and care to your pumpkin plant. Pumpkin vines are known to be prone to powdery mildew and bacterial wilt. Therefore it’s essential to take preventive measures or else these diseases can take over and kill your entire crop.
The vines retain their lush green shade and stay healthy until it is time to harvest the fruit. During that time, the vines start to shrivel, die, and decompose. You don’t need to panic at all when that happens as it is simply an indication that harvest time has arrived! Gather your crop and enjoy the fruity results!
Check out this list of 23 things to do with pumpkins – beyond cooking and decorating!
Post Harvest Pumpkin Storage: Learn How How To Store Pumpkins
Growing pumpkins is fun for the entire family. When it’s time to harvest the fruit, pay special attention to the condition of the pumpkins to make sure the time is right. Harvesting pumpkins at the right time increases the storage time. Let’s learn more about storing pumpkins once harvested.
Pumpkin Harvest Information
Pumpkins last longer if you harvest them when they reach their mature color and the rind is hard. Use the seed packet to get an idea of the mature color of the variety. Wait until the pumpkin rind loses its shine and it’s hard enough that you can’t scratch it with your fingernail. The curly tendrils on the part of the vine near the pumpkin turn brown and die back when it is completely ripe, though in some cases they can continue to ripen off the vine. Cut the stem with a sharp knife, leaving 3 or 4 inches of stem attached to the pumpkin.
Harvest all of the pumpkins before the first frost. You can also harvest
the fruit and cure it indoors if bad weather makes it likely that the crop will rot on the vine. Early frost and cold rainy weather call for early harvest. If you have to harvest them sooner than you’d like, cure them for 10 days in an area with temperatures between 80 and 85 F. (27-29 C.). If you have too many pumpkins to cure indoors, try placing straw under them so they don’t come in contact with wet soil. Do a scratch test with your fingernail to decide when they are ready for storage.
The piece of stem left on the pumpkin looks like a great handle, but the weight of the pumpkin might cause the stem to break off and damage the pumpkin. Instead, transport pumpkins in a wheelbarrow or cart. Line the cart with straw or other soft material to prevent damage if they bounce around.
How to Store Pumpkins
Wash and thoroughly dry the pumpkins, and then wipe them down with a weak bleach solution to discourage rot. Make the bleach solution by adding 2 tablespoons of bleach to a gallon of water. Now the pumpkins are ready for storage.
Dry, dark locations with temperatures between 50 and 60 F. (10-16 C.) make ideal pumpkin storage areas. Pumpkins kept at higher temperatures become tough and stringy, and they may sustain chill damage at cooler temperatures.
Set the pumpkins in a single layer on bales of hay, cardboard or wooden shelves. If you’d like, you can hang them in mesh produce sacks. Storing pumpkins on concrete leads to rot. Properly stored pumpkins keep for at least three months and may last as long as seven months.
Check the pumpkins for soft spots or other signs of rot from time to time. Throw away rotting pumpkins, or cut them up and add them to the compost pile. Wipe down any pumpkins that were touching them with a weak bleach solution.
How To: Preserve a Pumpkin
The scariest sight on your porch this Halloween might not be the ghoulish grin on your Jack-o’-Lantern’s face, but rather the rot, mold, and mildew—and the creepy crawlers—that inevitably invade. Like most produce, whole pumpkins decompose naturally with exposure to air, water, and pests, and the openings in carved pumpkins cause them to decay even more quickly.
Luckily, anyone who is eager to make his or her porch decoration last through Thanksgiving—or even just till the neighborhood trick-or-treaters arrive—has the means to do so already at home. You can slow its decay, maintain its looks, and prolong its life with one or more of these methods for how to preserve a pumpkin.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Large bowl
– Wet/dry shop vacuum
– Spray bottle
– Peppermint castile soap
– Trash bag
– Bleachbased spray
– Floor wax
Preserving a Carved Pumpkin
Method 1: Remove the Pulp
A pile of pulp in a carved pumpkin is an invitation for fungi, bacteria, and fruit flies and other pests to enter through the openings and feed on your Jack-o’-Lantern. Prevent your pumpkin from turning into a rot-, mold- and pest-riddled mess by scouring the pumpkin walls and base with a spoon to loosen the fibers and seeds, then turning the pumpkin upside down over a large bowl and dumping out the contents. If you don’t have any plans to eat the pumpkin pulp after carving, you can just as easily siphon out the pumpkin guts with a wet vac. But don’t let that pumpkin pulp go to waste—it makes excellent food for your garden later if you drop it into the indoor composting bin or backyard pile.
RELATED: 29 Bewitching Ways to Decorate a Pumpkin
Method 2: Use Lubricant
The water- and freeze-proof alkanes (hydrocarbons) in WD-40 can help keep your carved pumpkin shiny and hydrated while warding off fungi, frost, and even creepy crawlers. Put the superhero solvent to use by liberally spraying the entire exterior (including the inner grooves of the carved openings) of a gutted and carved pumpkin with WD-40. Wipe off any excess lubricant dripping from the surface with an old rag, then let the pumpkin dry for at least 24 hours before placing any candles inside.
Keep in mind that WD-40 is considered flammable, so avoid spraying it on a pumpkin while a lit candle burns inside it—that’s a house fire waiting to happen.
RELATED: 52 Unexpected and Amazing Ways to Decorate Pumpkins
Method 3: Apply DIY Anti-Fungal Spray
Extreme weather is the enemy of carved pumpkins, causing it to decay at a faster-than-average rate. If temperatures in your area are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t leave them out on the porch overnight. Every night, dry the outside of the pumpkins with an old rag, then lightly spray the inside of the pumpkin with this homemade anti-fungal solution: one tablespoon of peppermint castile soap and four cups of plain water shaken up in a plastic spray bottle. Tie up the soap-soaked pumpkin in a trash bag and then store the bag in your fridge overnight (a secondary fridge in the basement or garage is a great option for when your main fridge is full). When you retrieve your pumpkin in the morning, it will look as fresh-faced as the day you brought it home.
Preserving an Uncarved Pumpkin
Method 1: Use Bleach
Bleach can scare off fungi and bacteria from your uncarved pumpkin before they transform into mold and rot. Dilute one tablespoon of bleach in four cups of water in a large bucket, then soak the pumpkin in the bleach solution for 20 minutes before removing and drying the pumpkin. If you decorated your uncarved pumpkin, skip the soaking and enlist a can of bleach-based spray to spray the entire surface of the pumpkin before letting it dry.
RELATED: 30 Easy Painted Pumpkins to Perk Up Your Halloween
Method 2: Use Floor Wax
When you’re not putting it to use in the interior to lend a long-lasting luster to floors, enlist leftover acrylic liquid floor wax to protect your uncarved pumpkins from mold and rot. Apply a tablespoon of floor wax to a water-dampened rag, then wipe down the entire surface of your uncarved pumpkin, leaving behind a thin film of wax. When the wax cures on the pumpkin, it will act as a barrier to moisture that prevents the growth of mold and keeps your pumpkin hydrated. Even better? The wax will lend your pumpkin an attractive sheen that lasts four weeks or longer.
So you know how to make a carved pumpkin for Halloween, it’s finally done and it’s a masterpiece!
The question is now – “How to preserve a carved pumpkin?”
The last thing you would want to see after carving some Halloween pumpkins is the lovely carved out smiles turning into rotting grimaces and our guide will teach you how to keep a pumpkin fresh.
Remember, after you carve a pumpkin, you cannot completely stop a rotting pumpkin. Once exposed to air, mold, and bacteria they will naturally begin to rot.
However, you can take steps to keep them looking fresh and beautiful, plus “make the pumpkin last longer,” whether carved or uncarved.
Stop for a moment to consider the journey this colorful winter squash travels for your enjoyment. This giant pumpkin, some as big as a basketball began as small pumpkin seeds planted in soil.
From there the pumpkin vine started to grow, the leaves and flowers battled the elements, enduring days of direct sun, along with overcoming diseases like root rot, blossom end rot, and the white powdery mildew.
Its sole purpose is to decorate your front porch as a Halloween pumpkin or become a part of grandma’s delicious pumpkin pie! What a life!
Some things you’ll learn in this article:
- How to preserve a pumpkin
- How long do carved pumpkins last
- How to keep pumpkins from rotting
- How long does a carved pumpkin last
- and other tips on how to keep a carved pumpkin from rotting
When Should You Carve Your Pumpkin?
With the warmer temperatures most areas of the US are experiencing year round these days, figuring out just how long you can enjoy your Halloween Jack O’Lantern can be a bit of a challenge.
If your autumn temperatures are above 70° degrees Fahrenheit, you are probably best off not carving your pumpkin until two or three days before Halloween.
How Early Can You Carve A Pumpkin?
In cooler temperatures, you might be able to get away with 4 days lead up to the big day. Just be sure to keep your pumpkin in the shade and out of the wind as much as possible.
Of course, you might want to bring it indoors and set it in the fridge (or put it in the basement if you have one) during the daylight hours to help it stay fresh.
How Long Do Pumpkins Last After Carving Them?
Generally speaking, a pumpkin should last 3-5 days after you carve it.
Additionally, there’s no law saying you can’t carve more than one pumpkin. Have one for the week leading up to Halloween and another one for Halloween night and the week after!
How To Preserve Carved Pumpkins – The First Step
However, your journey begins with selecting your pumpkin. Some families make a big “to-do” of picking this winter squash.
The whole family heads to a farm where they walk the fields full of giant pumpkins searching for the perfect gourd to harvest fresh from the vine.
Others visit a temporary pumpkin patch, where vendors truck in small and giant pumpkins with a small stem still attached. Included are other gourds, dried corn stalks, fresh apples and hay to assemble the “harvest season.”
Some get their pumpkin at the local grocery store.
After many miles of travel and handling, and before any pumpkin carving begins, clean the outside of the pumpkin.
- Lightly wash the outside of the pumpkin to remove any dirt or soil
- Using paper towels, dry off all the excess moisture from the surface of the pumpkin.
Below you’ll find several solutions, tips and techniques you can use for:
- Preserve Jack O Lanterns
- Keep it from drying out
- How to make carved pumpkins last
- How to keep carved pumpkins from rotting
- How to preserve a pumpkin uncarved
- Extend and make your carved pumpkin last longer (don’t expect long-term storage life)
- … and slow down developing pumpkin mold.
How To Make A Carved Pumpkin Last By Applying A Pumpkin Bleach Solution
Perhaps, the best method to prevent carved or uncarved pumpkins from rotting is by preserving the pumpkin with bleach aka pumpkin preserver spray.
Spray With A Bleach Solution
Spray your pumpkins, including the inside, the edges and all cut openings with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water to get rid of all the mold, mildew and other unwanted stuff.
20 Minute Soak In A Bleach Solution
Another way is to soak the pumpkins in bleach using the same bleach solution for about 20 minutes.
Giving your decorated pumpkins a solid misting with a bleach-based spray, such as Clorox Cleanup with Bleach can also come to the rescue.
How To Keep Jack O Lanterns From Rotting With Borax Rich Pumpkin Preservation Sprays
Several commercial pumpkin preservative sprays, specially formulated to prevent pumpkins from decaying are on the market.
With names such as Pumpkin Fresh and Pumpkin Dunk’N extend the storage life of your carved pumpkin and keep it from rotting.
These preservatives contain water, borax and sodium benzoate. They work as a fungicidal solution that kills bacteria and mold.
All you need to do is dry the surface and spray the pumpkins with any of these marvelous sprays to make them last until your Happy Halloween.
How To Keep Carved Pumpkin Fresh With Rubbing Alcohol or Floor Cleaner
Spraying some rubbing alcohol can work wonders when it comes to keeping pumpkins from rotting and avoiding mold build up.
Floor cleaners can also work as excellent preservatives for uncarved pumpkins, keeping them shiny and fresh for up to four weeks.
All you need to do is apply an acrylic liquid floor cleaner to a wet towel and wipe the pumpkins with the same.
How To Preserve Pumpkins With Acrylic Finish Spray or Hair Spray
Hairspray and acrylic finish sprays are another great sealants that prevent pumpkins from getting dehydrated.
The sprays work as a barrier to mold growth, at the same time preventing rodents from eating your jack-o-lanterns away.
How To Keep Carved Pumpkins Fresh With WD-40
Exhibiting anti-freezing and water-repelling properties, WD-40 is impressive when it comes to keeping uncarved pumpkins fresh for longer.
WD-40 also prevents insects and other creepy crawlers from swarming around the inside of your decorated buddies.
Carved pumpkins can reap the benefits too!
Simply spray WD-40 over the surface of the pumpkin and wipe off the excess. Wait a day to allow the spray to dry completely before you place a candle inside.
How To Prevent Pumpkins From Rotting With Petroleum Jelly Sealant/ Tabasco with Vaseline
You can make sure that pranksters think twice about touching your pumpkin art by applying petroleum jelly to your sterilized dried pumpkins.
Smearing just a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the interior, the edges, and the cut-out sections of your jack-o-lanterns to create a barrier to combat bacteria from reaching the flesh and keep moisture trapped inside, at the same time adding some shine to them.
If you are going to paint your pumpkin, you can use Vaseline as a sealant to protect your work and help them last an extra week. Tabasco sauce plus petroleum jelly together help to repel pesky pumpkin-eating critters.
How To Preserve A Pumpkin After Carving With Vegetable Oils
Most of the vegetable oils available on the market can be quite helpful in preventing a pumpkin from getting rotten.
- Dry the pumpkins completely
- Using a paper or cloth towel
- Rub a small amount of vegetable oil a over the surface
- Use enough oil for the pumpkin to look shiny but not greasy.
How To Make A Carved Pumpkin Last Longer By Avoiding Exposure To Sunlight
Pumpkins rot quicker when exposed to direct sunlight. Place them in a location away from the sun and try to keep them as cool as possible to make them last for about a week. In warm weather, you can also put your pumpkin in the refrigerator, but make sure you don’t freeze it
Place them in a location away from the sun and try to keep them as cool as possible to make them last for about a week. In warm weather, you can also put your pumpkin in the refrigerator, but make sure you don’t freeze it
In warm weather, you can also put your pumpkin in the refrigerator, but make sure you don’t freeze it.
How To Stop A Pumpkin From Rotting By Hydrating The Pumpkins
Over time, pumpkins tend to start getting drying out or shriveled as they lose water content.
In order to revive a dried out pumpkin, submerge it in a bathtub or a bucket of water overnight or at least, for a few hours.
Make sure you wipe off excess water after taking the pumpkin out to prevent molding.
Remember, chemicals and oils are usually flammable and can prove to be dangerous.
If you choose to keep your pumpkins from rotting with these “oil” solutions and want to light them with candles inside – consider other options.
Instead, place glow sticks or battery-operated tea lights inside your Halloween jack-o-lanterns.
Carving a pumpkin can be a fun family affair. Try several of the above methods to see which one works best for you.
Select the right pumpkin, pull out the serrated knife and carving tools and get carving!
Autumn is peak pumpkin harvesting time. Whether you are picking your own home-grown pumpkins or grabbing a bargain at the farmers’ markets, knowing how to store pumpkins will allow you to enjoy fresh local pumpkins for months to come.
When selecting pumpkins to store, choose hard-skinned fruit that isn’t scratched or blemished and still has an intact stalk. Damaged skin and a missing stalk provide easy access for rot-producing organisms. A creamy coloured patch where the pumpkin has been resting on the ground is fine, but a sunburnt spot elsewhere is best avoided.
Pumpkins can be stored somewhere cool, dry and well-ventilated for months. They should be stored off the ground in a single layer, making sure that they are not touching each other. I’m storing mine on a timber bench and wire shelves in the shed. Storage life will vary, so it’s important to regularly check on your stored pumpkins, remove any rotting fruit and select those that should be eaten sooner rather than later.
If you are picking your own home-grown pumpkins to store, there’s a few extra considerations.
I’ve had plenty of practice picking pumpkins this year. My pumpkin vines enthusiastically took over my garden and I’ve harvested more than 50 pumpkins so far. Each visitor leaves our home with a pumpkin or two and I’m still laden with plenty of pumpkins that I’ll store and enjoy for up to six months.
Ensuring pumpkins are fully mature before they are harvested is important. Pumpkins that are picked too early will lack colour and flavour and will not store well. When the pumpkin stalk starts to dry and wither, the pumpkin is mature. The skin of a ripe pumpkin is also hard and will resist entry of a fingernail, and make a crisp sound when your fingernail breaks the skin.
Ideally, leave the pumpkins on the vine until the foliage withers. I tend to harvest early-season pumpkins before the vine withers rather than risk them rotting, and I leave the late-season pumpkins on the vine for as long as possible. Placing a timber board under pumpkins can decrease the risk of rot.
There is conflicting advice regarding the tolerance of pumpkin fruit to frost. Some say that frosts help to sweeten the fruit and harden the skin. On the other hand, I’ve read that heavy frosts can crack and damage pumpkins, making them susceptible to rot. I play it safe and make sure I harvest all ripe pumpkins prior to frost.
When harvesting, cut the stalk using a sharp knife or secateurs and leave at least 10centimetres of stalk on the fruit. The pumpkin will quickly deteriorate if the handle drops off, so avoid lifting the pumpkin by its stalk. I learnt this the hard way, after accidentally breaking the stalk off a handful of pumpkins. Be careful not to damage the vine if there are more pumpkins still on it, and handle pumpkins gently as bruises, scratches or cracks can also encourage rot.
Harvested pumpkins don’t need to be washed. Dirt can simply be brushed off after a few days of drying. Before storing pumpkins, it is important to cure them by leaving them in the sun for a week or two. Curing allows them to develop a tough, rot-resistant skin and improves their shelf life dramatically.
I’m looking forward to enjoying pumpkin aplenty over the coming months.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 28th April 2014.
Pumpkins are ready for harvest 75 to 115 days from sowing depending on the variety. Pumpkins can be left on the vine until the first frost in autumn is near. Cut pumpkins from the vine two weeks before the first frost and let them cure in the sun.
When to Harvest Pumpkins
- Harvest pumpkins when they are fully colored and the rinds are hard.
- The color of a mature pumpkin can vary according to variety; mature coloration can be orange, white, gray, or blue-gray.
- A mature pumpkin will have a hard, shiny shell that is not easily dented or punctured by a fingernail. The stem of a mature pumpkin will be hard and shriveled. Pumpkins will rot if harvested too young.
- Harvest pumpkins before the first hard frost. Do not leave pumpkins in the garden if the weather turns cold and rainy or if a freeze is predicted.
- If pumpkins can’t be harvested before cold and rainy weather comes, put hay or straw under them to prevent rot caused by contact with damp soil. (Earlier in the season, as the fruit is ripening, you can place a piece of wood or tile or a piece of cardboard or folded newspaper beneath pumpkins to prevent contact with soil and rot.)
Cut pumpkins from the vine with a sharp knife, pruner, lopper
How to Harvest Pumpkins
- Cut pumpkins from the vine with a sharp knife or garden lopper. Leave 3 to 6 inches of stem attached to the fruit. The attached stem will protect the fruit from disease and insect attacks.
- Pumpkin vines can be prickly, so protect your skin by wearing gloves and long sleeves when harvesting.
- Handle pumpkins with care to avoid nicking or bruising the skin.
- Lift and carry pumpkins by slipping your hand under the bottom of the fruit. Do not lift or carry a pumpkin by the stem; a heavy pumpkin can detach from the stem, fall, and crack or break. Stemless pumpkins do not store well.
Cured pumpkins will keep for 2 to 3 months.
How to Cure and Store Pumpkins
- Clean harvested pumpkins with soapy water to remove soil and kill pathogens on the surface of the fruit; use one part chlorine bleach to ten parts water. Dry the fruit after washing and place the fruit in a dry place to cure.
- Cure pumpkins by setting them in a warm place–80-85°F (26-29°C) and 80 to 85 percent relative humidity—for 10 days to two weeks. Curing will harden the skin, heal wounds, ripen immature fruit, and, importantly, improve flavor.
- If frost or cold nights are predicted, cover curing pumpkins with old blankets or move them into a shed or garage.
- Store cured pumpkins at about 50°F (10°C) with about 60 percent humidity, a shed or garage will do. Cool and dry are the best storage conditions for pumpkins. Pumpkins exposed to temperatures below 45°F (7°C) will soften and rot.
- Cured pumpkins will keep for 2 to 3 months. Store the pumpkins so that they do not touch.
More tips: How to Grow Pumpkins.
How do you tell they’re ripe?
If you’ve never done it before determining if winter squash is ripe can be a bit more difficult than picking tomatoes or green beans. It’s also very important that it is ripe if you want it to store well through the winter.
The biggest indicator that winter squash and pumpkins are ready to be harvested is their stems. The stems should be hard and dry. Often you can tell that the plant is beginning to die. The fruits should also be their mature color and sound hollow when patted with an open hand.
When they’re ready it’s time to harvest! Simply cut the fruit from the plant, leaving about 1 inch of stem with a knife or garden shears. Lightly wipe off large clumps of dirt with your hand.
Never carry your squash or pumpkin by their stem as breaking them off often drastically reduces their storage ability. Also try to avoid handling them roughly to reduce bruising and nicks.
If a hard frost is imminent you should go ahead and harvest any squash left on the vine even if it’s not perfectly ready. Hard frosts can damage squash and make them rot. Just keep in mind that squash harvested early may not keep quite as long so it should be used first. Leaving a longer stem can help them finish maturing properly.
Before you can store your winter squash it needs to be cured for about 7-10 days depending upon the variety. The best way to cure squash is to lay it out on a dry surface with enough space for air to move around it. Every day or so your squash should be moved or turned over to a new position.
A picnic table in your yard will work if the weather’s still warm enough, a pallet in your hoop house, your kitchen table, or even sunny windowsill.
The curing process allows the skin to toughen up so that your squash will be ready for storage.
Winter squash is one of the lovely foods that takes little effort to store at home. Ideally you should find a dry place to store your squash where the temperature stays between 50°F and 68°F degrees.
You might find a place in a spare bedroom, office, under a bed, or in a coat closet. You should store your squash in a single layer and not touching. That way if one begins to rot it won’t effect the others.
While your squash is in storage you should be careful to check it at least once a week for soft spots or mold. Use any squash that are starting to go bad immediately.
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I’m not sure what it is about our garden, but it consistently rocks the winter squash game. We don’t even have to plant seeds! Volunteer squash plants pop up each year all around our compost pile and give us some of the most beautiful (and tasty) squash—without a drop of effort on our part.
And the squash plants that we do actually go out of our way to plant and tend to? They produce a ton. It’s so nice to be able to count on a good squash crop each growing season.
(Can you hear me knocking furiously on wood? I would like this squash windfall to continue, Garden Gods, thankyouverymuch.)
There are so many things to love about winter squash. They are tasty. They are mega healthy. They look beautiful on the mantel as fall decor. And, my personal favorite, they are storage rockstars. You don’t need a root cellar. You don’t need a basement. You don’t need a cold frame. I promise, even you, Ms. But-I-Live-In-A-High-Rise-In-The-City, can store winter squash in your itty bitty apartment.
I think winter squash are the perfect crop to get anyone started on food storage. With just a few prep steps and the right nook in your home, you can be eating on winter squash well into next year. Snag a few extra butternuts or acorn squash at your local farmer’s market this weekend and try it yourself.
Not all squash are perfect for storage. Pick squash that have clean, unblemished skins. Squash that have intact stems tend to store better than one that have the stem broken off. You’ll want fully-mature squash. Save your storage space for the fully-grown, beautifully-tan butternut squash, not the tiny pie pumpkin that is still a little green. Any squash that have been through a frost or a freeze should be used relatively quickly—they wont store a long time.
When winter squash come off the vine in late summer, they are perfectly edible and delicious, but the skin is a little too soft and vulnerable to last through long storage. Enter curing. Curing is easy peasy – all you need is a sunny spot that is preferably dry (but a little bit of dampness won’t hurt anything).
Place the squash out in the sun in one layer on a flat surface for 7-10 days, rotating a few times so all sides get to sunbathe. Ours cure out on a wooden picnic table out in the middle of our backyard. We lost a few squash to curious chickens, but over all, it was a perfect spot for curing.
How will you know when your squash is properly cured? Well, when you press a thumbnail lightly into the skin of uncured squash, you’ll see a fingernail-shaped bruise—sometimes even a full-on cut. Do the same test with a properly cured squash, and you’ll barely even see a dent where your thumbnail was—the skin is thick, tough, and ready to last the winter!
The squash you pick up from the market or store might already be cured, so do the thumbnail test to check. If you don’t make a bruise, you can proceed to the next step without curing.
This is an optional step, but I’ve found I’ve had a lot more storage success if I don’t skip it. I use a light vinegar solution (probably close to one part vinegar to four parts water), and wipe the outside of all the cured squash. Why? Well, there are mold spores, bacteria, and other all-natural, but storage-killing critters on the rind. The quick wipe down kills a large chunk of them and really helps the squash keep longer.
The traditional way to do this is to do the wipe down using a bleach solution (much more diluted, think closer to 10-15 to one), but I like the more natural option of using vinegar, and it seems to work just find and dandy.
Each of our beautiful cured squash then gets wrapped very loosely in newspaper. For some storage veggies, you want a humid environment, but for squash, humidity is bad news. The newspaper helps keep air circulating around the squash and absorbs some of the humidity in the air.
Then the squash get packed into large, open boxes. Don’t shove them in too tight. You want the squash not to touch, and you want air to be able to move around. You can also use open air crates (think: milk crates), too, if that’s what you have kicking around. If you have particularly large squash you’re looking to store, you can also just place the squash on some flat cardboard on a shelf. Just make sure you don’t pack the squash too tightly on the shelf—air circulation is your friend!
The absolute ideal environment to store winter squash is 55°F and 60% humidity, which sounds really specific, but most homes have a spot like that somewhere. Maybe it’s a closet on an outside wall? Maybe it’s under the bed in the basement guest room? Maybe it’s in an unheated enclosed porch?
While 55°F and 60% humidity is perfect—that’s what’ll get you the longest storage—you don’t have to be perfect. You’ll still get numerous months out of a spot that is warm and more or less humid. The one big rule with squash is to not go below 50°F—and certainly don’t let them freeze—warmer is better! With each few degrees warmer you go, you’ll lose some storage time, but you wont lose much quality like you would with the temps going lower. Even if you keep them at normal room temperature of 72°F, you’ll still get a few months of prime squash time!
We have a heated and insulated basement, but it still stays cool—right around 60°F in the winter. We store our squash on the bottom shelf of a metal shelving unit (where it is even cooler) in our basement pantry. And it’ll last all the way to early spring, and sometimes even longer!
Inspect your squash every week or so. Any squash that are showing dark spots or starting to shrivel, move them up to “use now!” status—they’ll still be good to eat, but won’t last much longer in storage. Compost any squash that are rotting or collapsing.
And then make sure to actually use your stored squash! I have a bad habit of working so hard to store my food, and then totally forgetting about it. Don’t let the fact that your squash are stored in a rarely-used room keep you from putting your favorite butternut recipes on the menu. Enjoy your harvest all winter long!
Pumpkins are a giant, delicious vegetable that have a huge variety of uses. Whether you’re baking up a seasonal treat, carving a jack-o-lantern or cooking them at their simple best, you need to know, how long do pumpkins last?
A whole pumpkin, if blemish free, carefully washed, completely dried, and stored in a cool place should last anywhere from 30 to 90 days. Once cut, you have much less time to enjoy this tasty treat.
Pumpkin Shelf Life
Fresh, whole pumpkin has a surprisingly long shelf life when stored correctly, but as with most fruits and vegetables, this reduces drastically once it is cut or cooked.
- Whole, fresh pumpkin – stored correctly in the pantry, this can last anywhere from two to three months before starting to turn bad. Stored in the fridge, it may last up to five months.
- Fresh cut pumpkin – if stored in the fridge, you should use fresh, cut pumpkin within three days. In the freezer, it can last indefinitely but should be used within eight months for best quality.
- Cooked pumpkin – stored correctly, cooked pumpkin can last for up to one week in the fridge or three to five months in the freezer.
- Canned pumpkin – unopened, this may last up to five years. Once opened, it can last up to one week in the fridge, or three to five months in the freezer.
- Pumpkin pie – should be stored in the fridge and consumed within three to four days. If frozen, it is best consumed within six months.
- Pumpkin seeds – expect pumpkin seeds to last two to three months stored correctly in the pantry, and up to one year in the fridge or freezer.
How To Tell If A Pumpkin Is Bad
Choosing a fresh pumpkin is the key factor in determining the shelf life once you get it home. Here are some telltale signs that a pumpkin is bad.
- Blemishes – if the skin of the pumpkin is scratched or broken, this will accelerate the rate of spoiling. Use it up quickly, cutting out any bad areas, or dispose of it.
- Brown spots – if you can see brown spots on the surface of your pumpkin, you need to examine it more closely. It may still be usable, but once a pumpkin starts to spoil it will go downhill quickly.
- Softness – when pumpkins go bad, it happens from the bottom. Roll or lift the pumpkin to check the condition underneath. If it’s soft or even leaking liquid, it’s no longer good to eat.
- Mold – if you detect any mold, which may appear as fuzzy growths or strange discolorations, you need to throw your pumpkin out.
Do Pumpkin Seeds Go Bad?
Pumpkin seeds can go bad. Stored correctly, they can last well, but be sure to check for mold and bad smells before using them.
Kept in a cool dry area in an airtight container or zip lock bag, pumpkin seeds may last up to three months. For longer-term storage, throw them into an airtight bag and store them in the freezer, where they can last indefinitely.
How Long Does A Carved Pumpkin Last?
The average carved pumpkin should last about one week before starting to rot and become rather unpleasant. It does depend on how well you’ve prepared your pumpkin and what the conditions are like with regards to temperature.
Thoroughly scrape out your pumpkin. Yes, this is gloppy. However, all those wet strings create a yummy home for bacteria and mold, so get as much out as you can. Plus, you can enjoy roasted pumpkin seeds!
Wash out the pumpkin with a little peppermint soap. This will slow the rot.
If you carve big enough holes to allow for good air circulation, the pumpkin may hang in there for around two weeks.
To extend the life a little more, you can wrap it in plastic and store it in the fridge when it’s not on display.
Aim to carve your pumpkin around three days before Halloween – carving too early will result in a mushy jack-o-lantern for Halloween.
How Long Can Pumpkin Pie Sit Out?
Pumpkin pie is a delicious dessert that has been sadly relegated to the holidays in the United States.
If possible, don’t let pumpkin pie sit out long enough to get to room temperature. Your target safe temperature for all the foods served at your holiday feast is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit / 4.5 degrees Celsius.
If you like your pumpkin pie warm, consider microwaving it in short bursts of 10 to 20 second each on low.
Pumpkin pie shouldn’t sit out for more than two hours.
Does Pumpkin Pie Have To Be Refrigerated?
Does pumpkin pie have to be refrigerated? As a general rule and due to the custard-like consistency, yes.
However, as this delicious treat contains a fair bit of fat, be ready for it to absorb flavors from other items in the refrigerator. To avoid a slice of pumpkin pie that tastes a bit like stuffing, keep it airtight.
Once they’re cut apart, separate the slices onto individual plates and wrap each plate in an airtight storage bag.
Whole pies should also be refrigerated and will also need protection from other flavors and aromas. Again, go as airtight as possible.
If you’re concerned about moisture condensation on top of the pie sticking to plastic wrap and gumming things up, first cover your pie in a sheet of wax paper. The surface may not be perfect, but it won’t peel off when you remove the plastic.
Can you freeze pumpkin pie? For short periods of time, this should work. Keep in mind that pumpkin pie crust contains both fat and flour, which may not take well to a long stretch of cold.
However, if you’ve got a whole pumpkin pie and want to freeze it for the next weekend, do so! Thaw it in the refrigerator over the course of a couple of days to avoid moisture build-up, and, of course, store it in an airtight container.
How Long Does Pumpkin Puree Last?
Pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin is the orange goo that gets scooped out of the center of a pie grade pumpkin.
Can you make pumpkin puree out of a jack-o-lantern pumpkin? Yes, but those carving or display pumpkins are mostly hollow, so don’t count on a lot of puree from a jack-o-lantern.
Canned pumpkin is quite serviceable and can last for years; simply follow the use by dates on the can and you should be fine. You’ll probably get more use out of plain pumpkin puree, rather than seasoned as you can use it in savory dishes as well as sweet.
SEE ALSO: How Many Tablespoons In A Cup
How long does pumpkin puree last in the fridge? When working out how to store pumpkin puree, unless you’re going to use it up in just a few days, you’re better off to freeze it.
Can You Freeze Canned Pumpkin?
Can you freeze pumpkin puree without losing that rich flavor? Absolutely! Spoon your puree into a freezer proof bag, squeeze the air out and seal it tightly. Don’t forget to date it so you know how long it’s been sitting in the freezer.
When thawing, simply leave it in the fridge overnight or defrost it in a bowl of cold water.
Canned pumpkin can last indefinitely the freezer, but after about 12 months it will suffer in quality and taste.
How To Store Pumpkins
Whole pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dark place such as your pantry. The best storage temperature is 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure your pumpkin is dry before storing, and ensure there is enough air circulation around the entire pumpkin to prevent moisture and mold from developing.
If possible, set your pumpkin on a piece of cardboard to limit the risk of rot and protect your flooring if it does spoil. Once cut (or opened, if store-bought, pre-prepared products) store in an airtight container in the fridge for short-term or freezer for long-term.
(Picture: National Trust/John Millar)
The frightfully festive holiday of Halloween is near and people are getting their spooky decorations in order with the key ingredient being the humble pumpkin.
What I Own: Tristan, 26, who paid a £11,500 deposit for a three-bedroom home in Strood
The supermarkets and vegetable shops are rife with pumpkins on their shelves as the countdown to Halloween is on.
Pumpkins are the easiest way to make your home into a Halloween layer and they can also be pretty lanterns.
Carving the pumpkin is one of the most traditional things about Halloween; the smell of pumpkin in the air, the orange dye on the kitchen counter and the attempted sketches of what you want your pumpkin to look like.
Time to brush up on your pumpkin skills (Picture: Getty)
When should you buy your pumpkin?
Anytime in the month of October in the run-up to Halloween is a perfectly appropriate time to purchase your jack-o-lantern.
Pumpkins last 8 to 12 weeks after they are picked, it’s after you carve it that the clock starts ticking.
(Picture: National Trust/Chris Lacey)
When should you carve your pumpkin?
Once you decide on your pumpkin pattern and outline it on the skin, it’s time to take the knife to your oversized squash and carefully carve.
When the Pumpkin is carved and hollowed out it will last around 5 to 10 days, before it wilts and smells like the rotting veg that it is.
The more air circulation around your pumpkin the better as the less air circulation the faster it will grow mould.
(Picture: Frank Bienewald/LightRocket/Getty)
How to make your jack-o-lantern last longer
Make sure you select a perfectly unblemished pumpkin off the shelf as if it has gouges or blemishes this means it is not fresh.
If the pumpkin is soft to touch it means it will not last as long as you would like.
Try to be quick when you’re carving as the minute you make the first incision your pumpkins life clock is ticking.
Once you have scooped out the insides of your pumpkin you should spray the insides with peppermint dish soap, as peppermint is anti-fungal and will slow the pumpkin’s breakdown.
You could refrigerate your pumpkin once it is carved wrapped in a bin bag to re-hydrate the lantern.
Another way to re-hydrate is to soak the pumpkin in a large bucket of cold water overnight.
MORE: Halloween 2017: 10 spooky family-friendly things to do in London with the kids
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