Pumpkins waiting for harvest
image by jppi/morguefile.com
After a lengthy growing season spent watching pumpkins grow, the anticipation will begin to mount as the summer starts to wane. Make sure all of the hard work is fruitful by harvesting the pumpkins at just the right time. Pumpkins that look beautiful sitting in the pumpkin patch can lose quality if you do not harvest and store them properly. Make sure your pumpkins stay at peak quality by harvesting them at the right time.
Watch the pumpkin patch in the late summer and early autumn. Pumpkins are ready to harvest when they are orange all over in a uniform fashion. The orange should be a deep shade, and there should be no hint of green in the rind at all.
Press on a pumpkin rind to see if it gives under the pressure of your finger or thumb. Determine if the pumpkin rind dents when you press your thumbnail into it. If it does not give to this pressure, the pumpkin is mature.
Harvest mature pumpkins before a hard autumn freeze. A light autumn frost will not harm pumpkins that are still on the vines, but a hard freeze will damage the pumpkins still on the vines. Watch the weather, and if a hard frost is coming, harvest all of the mature pumpkins.
Handle the pumpkins very carefully when you are removing them from the vines. Use gardening shears to cut them from the vines, leaving an adequate stem on the tops of the pumpkins. Do not use the stems to carry the pumpkins, however, because they will easily break.
Cure the pumpkins for ten days at a temperature of between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This is an important step for hardening the pumpkin skins for long-term storage.
Store the pumpkins in a location with a temperature of between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid storing the pumpkins in large piles, because this creates heat that can lead to decay. Look over the pumpkins often, and throw away any pumpkins that are rotting. Pumpkins that are cured and stored properly will keep for up to three months.