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 (8-10 cm.) 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 ten days in an area with temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees 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 (20 ml.) of bleach to 1 gallon (4 L.) of water. Now the pumpkins are ready for storage. Dry, dark locations with temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees F. (10-16 C.) make ideal pumpkin storage areas. Pumpkins kept at higher temperatures become tough and stringy and 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.
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Jackie Carroll has written over 500 articles for Gardening Know How on a wide range of topics.
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