It’s that time of year again in many parts of the country when you start to feel a nip in the air. Days get shorter and the summer growing season is rapidly coming to an end.
Fall harvest is just around the corner. Get ready to pick and store your pumpkins and winter squash for the cold months to come.
If you don’t grow your own pumpkins, that’s okay. These tips will help you have a successful pumpkin harvest on your next visit to a farm’s pumpkin patch!
Pumpkin harvest tips.
The first sign pumpkins are ripe is when the rind turns a deep, solid color. Colors will vary according to the variety.
• Tap the pumpkin. It should feel hard and sound hollow.
• Do a thumbnail test. Try pushing your nail into the rind. The skin should not easily puncture.
• Cut your pumpkin from the vine with a sharp knife or shears. A clean cut will heal better and be less susceptible to insects and disease.
• Did you know pumpkins and squash “breathe” through the cut stems? Leave at least 3 to 6 inches of stem on your pumpkin. As it cures, the moisture is released through the stem.
Pumpkins need to be cured before storing. Handle all varieties of pumpkins very carefully until they are cured to prevent bruising which can lead to early rot.
Curing and storage tips.
• Wash the fruit in a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water. This will kill any bacteria on the surface.
• Cure your pumpkins outside in the sun whenever possible. If curing inside, lay pumpkins on a bed of newspapers change it often.
• Ideal temperatures and duration for curing pumpkins is 80-85 degrees for 10 days.
• Leave plenty of space between fruit for good air circulation. Rotate pumpkins so all sides dry evenly.
Butternut, Hubbard and similar squash shells should be hard, smooth and dull colored. These squash do not need curing. Acorn, delicate and sweet varieties have the shortest storage times.
Once cured, winter squash will keep for several months.