Large Ripe Pumpkin
(Image credit: Elenathewise)

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 diseases from getting into your pumpkin and rotting it from the inside out. Leave a Long Stem Be sure to leave at least several inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm.) 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.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.