It’s October, the month of pumpkins, the national symbol of autumn. Plenty of gardeners would have started harvesting their first pumpkins last month with these plants being so popular. And understandably so! We think pumpkins are a great autumn crop to grow, simply because they’re the crop that keeps on giving. Provided they are harvested and stored properly, they will last a long time. So without further a due, read on if you want to know how to harvest pumpkins the right way…
How to Harvest Pumpkins
One of the biggest telltale signs of ripe pumpkins that is ready for harvesting is its bright bold orange hue. However, just because a pumpkin isn’t completely orange, doesn’t mean it isn’t ripe. In fact, some pumpkins could be completely green and be perfectly ripe enough to eat!
So how are you supposed to be able to tell if your pumpkins are ready?
There are a couple of other signs to look out for to help you spot mature pumpkins that are ready for picking. For example, your pumpkins should be hallow. Imagine your pumpkin to be a house door and give it a good knock. If it sounds hollow, then it’s ready to be picked. Another sign is a tough surface. Ripe pumpkins should have hard skin, rather than soft. To test this, gently apply pressure to the pumpkin’s skin with your fingernails. If the surface only has dents and does not puncture, then your pumpkin is ripe. Consider all three signs together (colour, sounds and texture) as a checklist before harvesting your pumpkins.
Now, onto actually harvesting the pumpkins.
Pumpkins should ideally be kept dry so choose a dry day when you decide to harvest them. Using a sharp knife or good quality pruning shears, simply cut the pumpkin at the stem. You should leave a minimum of 3 inches of the stem still attached to the pumpkin after cutting the pumpkin from the main plant stem. This will help the pumpkin to stay fresher for longer. Repeat this process for each pumpkin you’re picking. Afterwards, brush them clean and give them a good rinse with water to remove any visible dirt.
How to Cure and Store Pumpkins
As mentioned earlier, pumpkins are a naturally lasting crop. However, there are a few things you need to do to get the most out of this hardy fruit. That’s right, pumpkins are in fact fruits. This is because they derive from the flowering part of the plant that then produces seeds. Here’s what you need to do before you can enjoy eating them:
Having harvested your pumpkins, you will need to cure them before they are ready for consumption. Curing is exactly what it sounds like. Making the pumpkins ‘healthier’ or in simple terms, better. Which involves healing any wounds/problem areas, hardening the skin and maturing any unripened fruit after harvesting.
To cure indoors, (which we suggest if you live in a climate of unpredictable weather leaning more on the rainy side like England, otherwise we highly recommend curing outside), simply, place your pumpkins is a warm, sunny area such as a windowsill for at least 4 days. The process may take a little longer, depending on how warm/sunny the area is. But you will know they are done when they resemble what we described as the signs of a pumpkin ready to harvest and all wounds are healed over.
You’ll need to store your pumpkins in a dry ventilated area at a temperature between 10 to 15 degrees Celsius. Be sure you don’t sit the fruits on hard surfaces or allow them to touch each other as this will cause their skin to soften and become prone to rot and moulding.
Following this process of harvesting, curing and proper storage precautions, your pumpkins will have the potential to last up to 6 months. That is of course if you haven’t eaten them or your harvest is big enough to stretch that far. Either way, that will take you up the next season for sowing pumpkins to have another round of growing autumn’s most seasonal crop.
Make sure you save those pumpkin seeds!