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You’ve worked hard to grow healthy pumpkins and winter squash. Keep them that way off the vine using these best practices.

Even after they have matured and are removed from the vine, pump­kin and winter squash are still alive. The objective of curing and storing them is to prolong the post-harvest life of the fruit. Mature pumpkins and win­ter squash store better than immature fruit.

When mature, winter squashes such as Butternut, Acorn, and Hubbard types have hard skins that resist puncture from your thumbnail. Skins of winter squash appear dull and dry compared to the fresh, bright sheen of the skins of immature fruit. Be sure to leave a long stem (handle) on pump­kins, but on winter squashes  such as the Hubbard types, be sure to remove the stems completely.

Keep in mind that dead vines do not indicate maturity in pumpkin and winter squash. When vines die prema­turely from disease or drought, for ex­ample, the fruits are probably imma­ture and therefore will not store successfully.

Curing involves elevating storage temperatures to 80 to 85  degrees 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, reduce the temperature and relative hu­midity as indicated in the table below. Curing is beneficial to pumpkins and some winter squash, but Butternut, Hubbard, and Quality squashes have not shown any added benefits from curing. Curing is detrimental to Acorn types such as the variety Table Queen.

All pumpkins and winter squash should be well matured and free from injury and decay when stored. They should be kept dry and provided with good air circulation. Control the hu­midity since high humidities will pro­mote decay and lower humidities will cause excessive weight loss. When winter squashes are taken out of stor­age, they should be marketed immedi­ately.

Temperature and Relative Humidity for Pumpkins and Winter Squash

TypeApproximate Length of StorageTemperature ControlRelative HumidityRemarks
Pumpkins2 to 3 months50 to 55 degrees F50 to 75 percentShould be well matured
Winter Squash (Hubbards)5 to 6 months50 to 55 degrees F70 to 75 percentHolds well in storage
Winter Squash (Acom)5 to 8 weeks50 degrees F50 to 75 percentDevelops poor color at higher temperatures
Winter Squash (Butternut, Turban, Buttercup)2 to 3 months50 degrees F50 to 75 percent

 

Download a PDF of Harvesting, Curing, and Post Harvest Care of Pumpkins and Winter Squash, ANR-1110. 

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