Harvesting Pumpkins

A crop that is popular for fall decorations is the pumpkin. It is seen as jack-o-lanterns in October and as part of cornucopias in November. There are a few things to remember about harvesting pumpkins that can make them last longer.

A pumpkin should be left on the vine until its desired color is reached. Once the pumpkin is picked, the color stops developing.

You can tell if a pumpkin is ripe by thumping the pumpkin and by examining its skin. If it makes a hollow sound when thumped, the pumpkin is ready to be picked. Additionally, the pumpkin is ripe is if the skin feels hard, almost like a shell. When you press your fingernail into a ripe pumpkin, it should resist puncture.

When harvesting a pumpkin use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the fruit from the vine. When cutting, be sure to leave a long handle on the pumpkin.

To ensure the pumpkin lasts for a long time, clean it, using a 10 percent bleach solution. The pumpkin can be sprayed with the bleach solution or dipped in it.

Curing involves elevating storage temperatures to 80 to 85 F with 75 to 80 percent relative humidity for approximately 10 days. Curing heals wounds, helps ripen immature fruit, enhances color, and ensures a longer post-harvest life.

After curing, the pumpkin can be coated in edible grade food wax if it is going to be eaten or with shellac if it will not. Store the pumpkin on its end out of direct sunlight. Following these simple steps, a pumpkin can be stored for two to three months.

Source: Dr. Joseph Kemble, Extension Horticulturist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, (334) 844-3050

Prepared by Jana Huggins, Agricultural Journalism Intern