Harvesting, Storing and Using Your Organic Pumpkins
Harvesting and storing your pumpkins is an important part of successful pumpkin growing. Here, we offer some basic tips for harvesting and storing your pumpkins. Also, if you are interested in growing pumpkins commercially, this site from the University of California Davis is designed for commercial growers and has specific information on optimal storage conditions of pumpkins and winter squash.
Most pumpkins take around 50 days to mature after the female blossoms appear. You’ll know when your pumpkins are ready to harvest when they have a rich color and the vines start to die off. The rinds will also get nice and tough, and should resist scratching with your fingernail. Make sure you harvest your pumpkins with the stems and try to harvest before any threat of deep frosts.
For medium sized pumpkins, you can expect a harvest of about 25-50 pumpkins per 100 foot row. Harvests may be higher for small and miniature varieties, and lower for large or giant pumpkins. If you have a large number of pumpkins to harvest, make sure you use gloves, as many pumpkins have tiny bristles on the stems that will begin to rough up your hands. These all-purpose gardening gloves are perfect for harvesting pumpkins.
For best results, pumpkins should be “cured” before storing them by placing them in a warm, moist place for about a week and a half. 80 degrees at 80% humidity should do the trick. If you need to harvest your pumpkins earlier in the season, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service recommends that you wash your pumpkins briefly in a solution of chlorine bleach in water diluted to 10% before storing in a cool and dry spot. For all pumpkins, you should store your pumpkins in a cool place with the humidity around 60%. Do not allow your pumpkins to freeze.
Laying out your pumpkins in a single layer rather than stacking them will ensure that they won’t rot due to lack of air circulation. If your space is limited and you must stack your pumpkins, try to stack them no more than 3 pumpkins high.
If for whatever reason your vines begin to die off before harvest time, you can pick the mature pumpkins and store them until you’re ready to use them in the fall. Make sure you leave a decent amount of the stem attached and store your pumpkins in a warm and dry place until the fall. As fall approaches, move your pumpkins to a cool and dry place.
Check out this site from the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more tips on processing and storing pumpkins after harvest.
Now that you’ve learned how to successfully harvest your organic pumpkins, you can go on to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Pumpkins have a great variety of culinary uses, from roasting the seeds, to pumpkin soup and pumpkin bread. Not to mention pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin pudding!