How (and When) to Harvest a Pumpkin

This time of year, pumpkins are everywhere—perhaps even in your own garden. At this point, you’ve probably picked and trimmed the other fruits, vegetables, and plants you’ve grown this year, but what about everyone’s favorite orange winter squash? Here’s how to know when it’s time to harvest pumpkins, and how to do it.

When to harvest pumpkin

Knowing when to harvest pumpkins has more to do with their appearance than the calendar. While most pumpkins are harvested from the garden in September and October, the ideal time to harvest pumpkins is when they are fully ripe, not a moment before, even if you don’t want them to grow even more, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. .

A pumpkin is considered ripe for harvest if it has the following characteristics:

  • The skin has taken on a deep solid color (usually orange, but it depends on what you planted)
  • hardened rod
  • Hardened peel that sounds dull when tapped with a finger
  • Skin that does not pierce when pressed with a fingernail

Not only will your pumpkins look better if they are a richer color (rather than pale orange), but allowing them to fully ripen on the vine will help them last longer.

How to collect pumpkins

So, your pumpkins are finally ripe. Now what?

The farmer’s almanac recommends picking pumpkins on a dry day (which will make the process more enjoyable anyway). Although pumpkins appear rough, they are actually quite fragile, so be careful when handling them or they are prone to cuts and bruises.

Using a sharp knife, pruner, or loppers , carefully cut the gourd off the vine , leaving three to five inches of stem attached. This piece of stem not only enhances the appearance but also helps prevent the pumpkin from rotting. But even if it looks like a handle, don’t use it as a pumpkin handle, as it can break.

How to treat and store pumpkin

Curing is the final step in the process. During this time, the skin of the pumpkin hardens even more, healing any cuts or scrapes. Also, if you plan on eating pumpkin, canning it will help improve and enhance its flavor.

To cure a gourd , simply place it in a sunny location for 10 days at 80 to 85°F and 80 to 85% relative humidity. Once they have cured, store the pumpkins in a single layer (without touching other pumpkins) in a dry place where the temperature is between 50 and 55°F. Stored this way, they can last up to two to three months .

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