When to pick pumpkins

For the first time, I planted pumpkins. They are a beautiful orange color, but how do I know when they are ripe enough to pick?

Pumpkins are ready to harvest when they have reached the desired color and the rind is hard. You can test its readiness by jabbing your fingernail against the outer skin, or rind. It should be strong enough to resist puncture. Also, you can tell a pumpkin is ripe if you hear a hollow sound when you thump on it.

Pumpkins are usually ready to harvest by mid-fall and you definitely want to bring them in before the first frost or when night temperatures are expected to drop down into the 40s for an extended period of time.

When harvesting, use a sharp knife to cut the pumpkin from the vine, leaving about 2 inches of stem. Handle carefully to avoid any nicks or bruises that will accelerate decay.

You can increase the shelf life by curing your pumpkins before storing them. The procedure is simple. Gently clean the pumpkins by brushing off any excess dirt and then place them in an area with a temperature of about 80 to 85 degrees F with 75 to 80 percent relative humidity for 7 to 10 days.

After they have been cured keep your pumpkins in a cool location (about 50 to 60 degrees F), out of direct sunlight with plenty of good air circulation. Stored this way, they should last up to 3 months.

Harvesting and Storing Pumpkins, Winter Squash, and Gourds

Pumpkins: Halloween pumpkins are harvested September through October. Sometimes harvesting may start in mid August to early September which requires good handling and storage of the pumpkin fruit before selling to the customers in late October. The first frost occurs in early to mid October in northern parts of the state when the pumpkin fruits are still curing outside in the fields. The growers in pick-your-own pumpkin operations use this method to ensure that pumpkins are well cured in the field before picked up by their customers. Some growers practicing conventional pumpkin marketing systems where the fruit is picked, washed, dried and sold to customers on weight or per fruit basis also use this method. It is important to note that pumpkin fruits can tolerate light frost that kill the vines only but more fruit loss can occur if the frost caused injury on the fruit surface as the damaged areas act as avenues for fungal and bacterial fruit rot pathogens. Remove pumpkins from the fields before the hard freeze (when the night temperatures are less than 27 degrees (F) or else you may risk losing 80-90 percent of the fruits.

The pumpkin fruit is harvested when it is uniformly orange and the rind is hard. Green immature fruits may ripen during the curing process but not after the vines are killed by frost. The vines need to be dry when fruits are mature. Handle the fruit with care to avoid cuts and bruises. Harvest the fruit by cutting it off the vine with a sharp knife or a pair of looping shears leaving 3-6 inches of the stem attached to the fruit. This makes the fruit look more attractive and less likely to be attacked by fruit rot pathogens at the point of stem attachment. Do not carry the pumpkin fruit using the fruit stems because the fruit is very heavy and may lead to detachment of the fruit stem. Wash the fruit with soapy water containing one part of chlorine bleach to ten parts of water to remove the soil and kill the pathogens on the surface of the fruit. Make sure the fruits are well dried before setting in a shed to cure.

Pumpkin fruits are cured at 80-85F and 80-85 percent relative humidity for 10 days. This is done to prolong the post harvest life of the pumpkin fruit because during this process the fruit skin hardens, wounds heal and immature fruit ripens. After curing, the fruits can be sold to the customers and the remaining fruits stored.

Store the fruits in a cool dry place. Put the fruits on a single layer on wooden pallets with enough space in between the fruits (the fruits should not touch each other) and do not place them on a concrete floor. Improve the air circulation within the storage area by letting in cool air at night and use a fan to circulate air during daytime. Do not let in warm air from outside into the storage during the daytime. The optimal storage condition is 50-55F temperature and relative humidity of 50-70 percent. The relative humidity is very important within the 50-70 percent range because high humidity leads to settling of moisture on fruit surfaces, which increases decay of the fruit and low relative humidity may cause dehydration of the fruit. Under these conditions you can keep the fruits for about 2-3 months. Store the fruits away from apples since apples produce ethylene gas as they ripen which speeds up the ripening process in pumpkins, hence decreased shelf life. Check the fruits regularly and remove the ones that are rotten because if not removed, they will spread the pathogens in the storage area.

Winter squash such as Butternut, Acorn, Hubbard, and other types are mature when the skin (rind) is hard and cannot be punctured by thumbnails. The mature fruit has a dull and dry skin compared to shiny, smooth skin of immature fruits. Remove stem completely from Hubbard types and if desired leave only 1-inch long stump on the fruit. Stems longer than 1-inch tend to puncture adjacent fruits when in transit or storage. Butternut, Hubbard and other squash types do not need to be cured as the benefits are less compared to pumpkins, while curing is very detrimental in Acorn types as it leads to a decline in quality. Acorn types have the shortest storage time of 5-8 weeks at 50F and relative humidity of 50-75 percent. Butternut, Turban, and Buttercup types can be stored at the same temperature and relative humidity as Acorn types but have a longer storage time of 2-3 months. The Hubbard types can be stored much longer than the rest (5-6 months) at 50-55F and relative humidity of 70-75 percent. Winter squash should be marketed or used immediately when taken out of storage to avoid development of fruit rot diseases.

Gourds are of different colors, shapes and sizes. They should be harvested before frost when fruit is mature. As gourds mature, stems turn brown and become dry. Don’t use “thumbnail” test on gourds as it can cause a dent on the shell of the unripe gourd and lower its quality. Harvest the fruit by using a sharp knife or shears to cut the stem from the vine and leaving a few inches of the stem attached to the fruit. Do not handle the gourd by its stem since the stem can easily detach from the fruit and lower its decorative value. If the fruit is dirty, wash in soapy water to remove soil and rinse in clean water with household bleach. One part to 10 parts water kills soil-borne pathogens. Then dry each fruit with a soft cloth. Spread the fruits so that they do not touch each other in shelves lined with newspapers in a well-aerated shed. Turn the gourds daily and change damp newspapers for 1 week. The outer skin will harden this time and surface color develops. The gourds need to be wiped with a damp cloth soaked in household disinfectant and placed in a warm, dry dark area for 3-4 weeks for further curing. The decorative gourd can stay in its natural state for 3-4 months and as long as six months with a protective coat of paint or wax on the surface.

October/November 2004: Diseases and Insects of Shrubs and Small Trees | Does Your Ash Tree Have the Emerald Ash Borer? | Harvesting and Storing Pumpkins, Winter Squash, and Gourds

Pumpkin Pickin’

SERIES 28 Episode 02

How do you know when a pumpkin is ready to be picked? Tino has some tips to help!


  • Look out for signs that the plant is ‘dying off’. This includes the leaves turning paler and then browning at the edges
  • Give the pumpkin a little ‘knock’, like knocking gently on a door. If it sounds hollow, it’s a good indication that the pumpkin is ripe.
  • The colour of the skin gives another indication of ripeness. If the fruit has developed a rich colour and is becoming covered in ‘warts,’ the pumpkin is ready to harvest.
  • Smell the neck of the pumpkin (where the fruit meets the stalk). If it smells ‘pumpkiny’, that’s a good sign it’s ready to pick.


  • When you harvest a pumpkin, always leave a length of the stalk attached – like a handle – but don’t carry it by the stalk as it could rip the top of the pumpkin.
  • Check the pumpkin for damage as only unblemished pumpkins should be stored.
  • Harden the pumpkins in the sun for a week before storing in a cool, dry place.
  • Always store pumpkins on their side, to prevent moisture collecting.

How To Tell When Pumpkins Are Ripe

When summer is nearly over, the pumpkin vines in the garden can be filled with pumpkins, orange and round. But is a pumpkin ripe when it turns orange? Does a pumpkin have to be orange to be ripe? The big question is how to tell when pumpkins are ripe.

How to Tell When a Pumpkin is Ripe

Color is a Good Indicator

Chances are that if your pumpkin is orange all the way around, your pumpkin is ripe. But on the other hand, a pumpkin doesn’t need to be all the way orange to be ripe and some pumpkins are ripe when they are still completely green. When you are ready to harvest a pumpkin, use other ways to double check whether it is ripe or not.

Give Them a Thump

Another way how to tell when pumpkins are ripe is to give the pumpkin a good thump or a slap. If the pumpkin sounds hollow, that the pumpkin is ripe and ready to be picked.

The Skin is Hard

The skin of a pumpkin will be hard when the pumpkin is ripe. Use a fingernail and gently try to puncture the pumpkin’s skin. If the skin dents but doesn’t puncture, the pumpkin is ready to pick.

The Stem is Hard

When the stem above the pumpkin in question starts to turn hard, the pumpkin is ready for picking.

Harvest the Pumpkin

Now that you know how to tell when pumpkins are ripe, you should know how best to harvest a pumpkin.

Use a Sharp Knife
When you harvest a pumpkin, make sure that the knife or shears you use are sharp and will not leave a jagged cut on the stem. This will help prevent disease from getting into your pumpkin and rotting it from the inside out.

Leave a Long Stem
Be sure to leave at least several inches of stem attached to the pumpkin, even if you don’t intend to use them for Halloween pumpkins. This will slow down the rotting of the pumpkin.

Disinfect the Pumpkin
After you harvest the pumpkin, wipe it down with a 10 percent bleach solution. This will kill any organisms on the skin of the pumpkin that may cause it to rot prematurely. If you plan on eating the pumpkin, the bleach solution will evaporate in a few hours and so will not be harmful when the pumpkin is eaten.

Store Out of the Sun
Keep harvested pumpkins out of direct sunlight.

Learning how to tell when pumpkins are ripe will ensure that your pumpkin is ready to display or eat. Learning how to properly harvest a pumpkin will ensure that the pumpkin will store well for many months until you are ready to use it.

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As summer comes to an end your pumpkin vines are loaded in fruit. If your wondering how to tell when a pumpkin is ripe and ready to harvest these tips will help you know when to pick your pumpkins and cure them so they keep for months.

Summer is coming to a close, and signs of fall are all around. I always love this time of year, the weather is cooler and soon the leaves will be changing colour too.

But best of all it’s pumpkins season! Our plants are loaded with pie pumpkins and I can’t wait to harvest them and start baking.

If you’re new to growing pumpkins you might have questions like “When are pumpkins ripe?”. The good news is that it’s really easy to tell when they are ripe and ready to harvest and time to cure pumpkins so that you can enjoy them all winter.


What Month Are Pumpkins Ready To Pick?

Depending on when you planted your pumpkins they are usually ready to pick starting in September, while the bulk of your harvest will begin in October.

But it’s better to go by how the pumpkins look than the date on the calendar.

How To Tell When A Pumpkin Is Ripe

The best way to know when pumpkins are ripe and ready to harvest is to look at the plant for clues.


The first indication that your pumpkin is ripe and ready to harvest is its colour.

Pumpkins start off green in colour you want to wait to harvest the pumpkin until it has turned a solid orange colour, or the colour of the variety your growing.

The Skin Is Hard

When pumpkins are ripe their skin turns hard. Use a fingernail to gently press down on the skin of the pumpkin. If it dents but doesn’t puncture the skin the pumpkin is ready to harvest.

The Stem Is Hard

Immature pumpkins have a soft, green stem as it matures the stem starts to turn yellow or brown in colour. If the stem on the pumpkin is hard and dry then it’s also ready to pick.

You can also check the vine that attaches to the pumpkin stem. It will sometimes start to dry up and pull away from the stem of the pumpkin. If you see this happening and the pumpkin has fully changed colour then it’s ready to harvest.

The Pumpkin Sounds Hollow

Another way to tell if your pumpkin is ripe is to tap it. Tap your hand against the side of the pumpkin if it sounds hollow it’s ready to harvest.

How To Harvest A Pumpkin

When your pumpkins are ripe it’s time to harvest them.

The best time to harvest pumpkins is on a nice, sunny day. This means the pumpkins are nice and dry and hay it’s nice to work outside on a sunny fall day too!

Get a sharp knife or hand pruners and cut the stem off the pumpkin leaving 3–4 inches attached, 6 inches is even better.

Leaving a longer stem attached to the pumpkin will help it keep longer. If the stem breaks off make sure to use that pumpkin up first because it will start to rot in a few days.

Pumpkins may look strong but they actually bruise easily. Don’t carry them by the stems and handle them gently. So that they will store a long time for you.

Pumpkins need to be cured before you can store them for winter use.

Place the pumpkins in a warm area for 7–10 days. This will help the skins to toughen further.

A greenhouse, sunny porch, or even a sunny windowsill will work as long as it’s warm. 26- 29C (80–85F) is the best temperature for curing pumpkins.

Once your pumpkins are cured you can store them in a cool, dry place. The best temperature to store pumpkins at is 10-12C (50–55F) but they will still keep for months at temperatures as warm as 20C (68F).

This means you can easily store the pumpkins in an out of the way place in your root cellar, garage or place them around your home as decorations until your ready to cook them up.

Can I Pick Pumpkins Early?

Pumpkins are best left on the vine until they are fully ripe. But, if you are expecting a hard frost it’s best to harvest the pumpkins early.

Pumpkins that have started to turn orange will normally finish ripening after being cut from the plant. Cut the stem leaving it extra long 6 inches at least, include some of the vines if possible. Then place it in a warm, dry place to finish ripening.

Can You Eat Green Pumpkins?

Yes, you can eat green pumpkins! So don’t worry about letting them go to waste.

I bet you haven’t thought about eating immature pumpkins before right? The good news is that immature pumpkins that are light green and have soft skin can be cooked just like zucchinis and other summer squash. They are really quite good!

Fully grown pumpkins that haven’t ripened yet can also be eating green but won’t be as flavourful as full ripe pumpkins are. Use the tips above to allow the pumpkins to ripen naturally off the vine but if you need to use them up fast you can cook them as is.

Try roasting them to help bring out a sweeter taste from the unripened fruit.

Unripe pumpkins can also be fed to chickens and pigs, no need to let them go to waste!

How Long Will Pumpkins Last On The Vine?

It’s best to harvest ripe pumpkins when they are ready but if the weather conditions are good you can leave them on the vine until your first frost.

If the weather is dry and warm the pumpkins will keep in the field well. However, if you are getting a lot of rain and freezing temperatures are approaching it’s best to harvest the pumpkins right away.

How Long Does A Pumpkin Last Off The Vine?

If you pick fully ripe pumpkins off the vine and take care not to brush them and cure them well they will last 8–12 weeks in good condition for you.

Some years we’ve even had pumpkins keep as long as 6 months in our root cellar.

How To Keep Uncarved Pumpkins From Rotting

Whether your keeping pumpkins as decorations or for winter storage you want to make sure they last a long time. To keep your uncarved pumpkins from rotting one of the best things you can do is to clean the outside of the pumpkin well with bleach.

Pumpkins pick up a lot of dirt and bacteria when they are growing on the ground. The easiest way to clean them is to mix 1 part bleach with 10 parts water and wipe down the outside of the pumpkin with it.

After the pumpkin is fully dry follow the tips below for storing pumpkins.

Tips For Storing Pumpkins

Don’t place pumpkins on flat surfaces such as tables, and wooden shelves. It causes moisture to collect where the pumpkin touches the surface and it will start to rot.

Place pumpkins onto wire racks lined with newspaper or straw to encourage air circulation.

Don’t store pumpkins near other fruits like apples. They give off ethylene gas that can cause the pumpkins to spoil faster.

Check your pumpkins often and cook up any that show signs of wrinkly or not keeping well.

Coat the pumpkin in olive oil. To help your pumpkins hold moisture inside of them you can rub the skins with a little olive oil.

This forms a protective barrier that helps to keep the moisture locked inside. This can be especially helpful if you live in a very dry area.

Now that your pumpkins are harvested don’t miss these easy pumpkin dessert recipes!

Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.

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How to Harvest and Store Pumpkins

Written by Bill Date Posted: 11 January 2017

Pumpkin, Gourd and Winter Squash are all popular vegetables to grow in the home garden but how and when is the best time to harvest them?

So you have a thriving pumpkin patch full of beautiful pumpkins and you’re starting to think about picking them. Did you know that their taste and storage qualities will depend on when you harvest them and how you handle them? Here’s how to achieve maximum flavour and the longest shelf life:


If picked too early your pumpkin will be bland, having never developed its natural sweetness. If you wait too long, frost could shorten its shelf life. When the perfect moment arrives, you’ll see one or more of these signs:

Dry leaves. When the leaves have dried and turned brown, the plant’s life cycle is complete; it has infused as much flavor into its fruits as it possibly can.

Woody stems. When the stems on each squash are no longer green, but tough and brown like wood your pumpkins are ready to harvest.

Frost is threatening. Exposure to a light frost will shorten the shelf life of the pumpkin, and a heavy freeze will ruin it. If the weather report predicts chilly temperatures, it’s time to bring your pumpkins inside.


Harvest your pumpkins by cutting them at the vine, leaving a few inches attached to each fruit. Remember that the stem on a pumpkin is not a handle; if a stem breaks off, be sure to eat that pumpkin quickly, before decay sets in.


Curing pumpkins will give the fruit a tougher skin which will dramatically improve their storage life.

Wait a week for the skins to harden, or cure, before you transfer the pumpkin into long-term storage. If your climate is usually sunny, group the pumpkins together in the field; cover them with a tarp at night to protect from light frost, but remove the tarp each day for sun exposure. If the weather in your area is unpredictable, you can cure the pumpkins on a covered porch. Do not stack them; arrange the pumpkins in a single layer with a few inches of separation so that air can flow between them.


Your pumpkins should store for up to six months(or even longer!) in a dark, dry room at temperatures between 10 and 16°C . It’s a good idea to place a layer of cardboard or plywood beneath them; this will protect your floor if any of them begin to decay. Check and rotate the pumpkins regularly and discard any that show signs of mold.

Keep in mind that thinner skinned varieties(like butternut) will generally not keep as long as thicker skinned varieties.

By harvesting your pumpkins at the peak of ripeness, and curing and storing them well, you’ll achieve produce of gourmet quality that you’ll be able to use throughout autumn and winter!


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I have a ton of pumpkin questions I need help with.

So, around Halloween I bought a huge pumpkin that I was using as a decoration in my home, but planned to actually cook for Thanksgiving. Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and with all the cooking I had to do that day, making homemade pumpkin purée was at the bottom of my list. I still have the pumpkin and am craving pumpkin pie, but I have no idea how to go about making the purée.

Here are my questions: This pumpkin has obviously been sitting around my house for weeks. It looks as pretty as it did the day I purchased it with no outward signs of having gone bad. Despite the way it looks on the outside, could something be bad on the inside? How long do pumpkins last? Aside from a bad smell or rotting, how could I tell if this pumpkin’s ok to eat?

I’m sure I can find general info. online about how to go about making the purée, but I was hoping Serious Eaters could give me some tips that might lend to a better flavor. Do I boil the pumpkin? Roasting it will give it more flavor, but will it effect the texture needed for pumpkin pie?

Thanks in advance and sorry about all of the crazy questions.

So you’ve bought a bag or two of pumpkin seeds to level up your nutrition game. You add only a tablespoon or two to your breakfasts, so going through an entire bag takes months, if not more. And at some point, you start wondering: do pumpkin seeds go bad?

Or you went with roasted and seasoned pumpkin seeds as something to munch on. And only recent you noticed that the package is already nearing the date on the label.

That makes you think how long do pumpkin seeds last past the date on the label. Or if there is a better way to store them, so you can use them for a longer period.

If some of these wonderings sound familiar, it’s time for you to learn a bit more about pumpkin seeds. In this article, we cover storage, shelf life, and going bad of those. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on.

Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How to Store Pumpkin Seeds?

When it comes to storing pumpkin seeds (in or out of the shell), there are a few options. Unlike for chia seeds, the pantry isn’t the best option. It all depends on how long you expect to keep them around.

As long as the pack is unopened, you can store it in the pantry or in the kitchen. Pick a spot that’s cool, dry, and away from sunlight and sources of heat.

Once you open the package, there are a few things to remember.

First, make sure the package is always sealed tightly. If you can’t reseal the original packaging, consider pouring the seeds into a freezer bag. That’s because pumpkin seeds are prone to going rancid. Each time you open the package, the likelihood of the seeds going rancid increases.

Because of that, if you expect to open the package a gazillion times each time to pick up only a handful of seeds, it’s better if you transfer some seeds to a temporary container. A smaller bag or container should do the trick. Only once you finish that container, you refill it with seeds from the original packaging. This minimizes the number of times seeds are exposed to fresh air.

Temperature is another factor that increases the chances of the seeds going rancid. So if you expect to store an opened package of seeds for a prolonged period, like more than 3 to 4 months, it’s better to refrigerate the seeds.


Please remember that the seeds need to be sealed tightly in the fridge, so they don’t pick up any moisture. Because of that, a freezer bag or an airtight container is the way to go.

For storage periods longer than a year after opening the pack, it’s probably best to freeze the seeds. Just like for freezing, you need to make sure the seeds are sealed tightly before you chuck them into the freezer.

Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How Long Do Pumpkin Seeds Last

Pumpkin seeds usually come with a best-by date on the label. Of course, the seeds don’t go bad a day or a week past that date, but they definitely don’t stay fresh forever.

Generally, the seeds in an unopened container should retain freshness for at least 1 to 3 months past the date on the label.

Once you open the container, the quality of the seeds starts degrading much faster. And it’s impossible to tell when exactly they will go rancid.

That’s because there are a few things that come into play. Those things are how you store the seeds, at what temperature, and how often you open the container. The better you do on each front, the longer the seeds will retain freshness.

Because of that, the best I can come up with here are rough estimates.

When you’re storing the seeds in the pantry, try to finish the pack within 2 to 3 months for best quality. If you keep them in the fridge, 6 to 9 months is a pretty realistic period. In the freezer, they should easily keep their quality for longer than a year.

Pantry Fridge
Pumpkin seeds (unopened) Best-by + 1 – 3 months
Pumpkin seeds (opened) 2 – 3 months 6 – 9 months

Please note that the periods above are estimates and for the best quality only.

(credit: chuttersnap)

How to Tell If Pumpkin Seeds Are Bad

As usual, if you notice any typical signs of going bad, like mold, any other visual changes, or an off odor, throw the seeds out.

If that’s not the case, the seeds are probably okay to eat, but they still can be rancid. If the pumpkin seeds smell or taste rancid, stale, somewhat sour, or simply not as they used to, discard them.

Rancidity doesn’t mean the seeds are not safe to eat anymore, but the nutritional value might be decreased, plus rancid seeds plain old taste bad.

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