3 Things to Know Before you Harvest Pumpkins.
When to Harvest.
Pumpkins are often left unharvested until the end of a long growing season when plants have died back. Different varieties may have unique clues or signs that fruits are mature. Most varieties are ready for harvest when fruits are in full color, rinds are firm, and the nearby vines and stem to a fruit have shriveled or died. Plant leaves and stems may generally be turning brown and dying.
Many varieties are ready for harvest when the rind has become so hard that it can’t be easily nicked or dented with a fingernail. Shorter-season Cucurbita pepo varieties, particularly those grown for immediate cooking, may be ready to harvest when rinds are still somewhat soft.
Be patient and wait until full maturity to harvest pumpkins. Fruits will not continue to mature or harden if harvested early, and immature fruits will not last well in storage.
How to Harvest.
Use a knife or pruning shears to cut pumpkins from the vine. Loppers or a pruning saw may be needed for large fruits or thick stems. Leave 3 to 6 inches of stem above the fruit, and avoid using the stem stub as a handle for lifting or moving a pumpkin. A sufficient stem stub slows and reduces microbial infection coming in through the stem and will result in a longer storage period for the pumpkin.
Curing after Harvest.
Many pumpkin varieties are cured after harvesting. Curing reduces water in pumpkin fruits and hardens their skins, preparing them to last as long as possible in storage. Curing also tends to increase sweetness of pumpkins because it reduces their water content in proportion to sugars. Pumpkin fruits are ideally cured unwashed outdoors in sunlight at warm temperatures (ideally about 80° to 85°F) for about 7 to 14 days. Fruits should be kept dry while curing, and may need part shade to avoid sunscald, particularly during warm-to-hot weather. They can be cured indoors in a well-ventilated area if weather is cool or rainy, or if curing fruits may be subject to wet soil, sprinklers, or other irrigation.
To view customized information for growing pumpkin in your area, go to GardenZeus and enter your zip code, then go to pumpkin.
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