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As summer comes to an end your pumpkin vines are loaded in fruit. If your wondering how to tell when a pumpkin is ripe and ready to harvest these tips will help you know when to pick your pumpkins and cure them so they keep for months.
Summer is coming to a close, and signs of fall are all around. I always love this time of year, the weather is cooler and soon the leaves will be changing colour too.
But best of all it’s pumpkins season! Our plants are loaded with pie pumpkins and I can’t wait to harvest them and start baking.
If you’re new to growing pumpkins you might have questions like “When are pumpkins ripe?”. The good news is that it’s really easy to tell when they are ripe and ready to harvest and time to cure pumpkins so that you can enjoy them all winter.
- What Month Are Pumpkins Ready To Pick?
- How To Tell When A Pumpkin Is Ripe
- How To Harvest A Pumpkin
- Can I Pick Pumpkins Early?
- Can You Eat Green Pumpkins?
- How Long Will Pumpkins Last On The Vine?
- How Long Does A Pumpkin Last Off The Vine?
- How To Keep Uncarved Pumpkins From Rotting
- Tips For Storing Pumpkins
What Month Are Pumpkins Ready To Pick?
Depending on when you planted your pumpkins they are usually ready to pick starting in September, while the bulk of your harvest will begin in October.
But it’s better to go by how the pumpkins look than the date on the calendar.
How To Tell When A Pumpkin Is Ripe
The best way to know when pumpkins are ripe and ready to harvest is to look at the plant for clues.
The first indication that your pumpkin is ripe and ready to harvest is its colour.
Pumpkins start off green in colour you want to wait to harvest the pumpkin until it has turned a solid orange colour, or the colour of the variety your growing.
The Skin Is Hard
When pumpkins are ripe their skin turns hard. Use a fingernail to gently press down on the skin of the pumpkin. If it dents but doesn’t puncture the skin the pumpkin is ready to harvest.
The Stem Is Hard
Immature pumpkins have a soft, green stem as it matures the stem starts to turn yellow or brown in colour. If the stem on the pumpkin is hard and dry then it’s also ready to pick.
You can also check the vine that attaches to the pumpkin stem. It will sometimes start to dry up and pull away from the stem of the pumpkin. If you see this happening and the pumpkin has fully changed colour then it’s ready to harvest.
The Pumpkin Sounds Hollow
Another way to tell if your pumpkin is ripe is to tap it. Tap your hand against the side of the pumpkin if it sounds hollow it’s ready to harvest.
How To Harvest A Pumpkin
When your pumpkins are ripe it’s time to harvest them.
The best time to harvest pumpkins is on a nice, sunny day. This means the pumpkins are nice and dry and hay it’s nice to work outside on a sunny fall day too!
Get a sharp knife or hand pruners and cut the stem off the pumpkin leaving 3–4 inches attached, 6 inches is even better.
Leaving a longer stem attached to the pumpkin will help it keep longer. If the stem breaks off make sure to use that pumpkin up first because it will start to rot in a few days.
Pumpkins may look strong but they actually bruise easily. Don’t carry them by the stems and handle them gently. So that they will store a long time for you.
Pumpkins need to be cured before you can store them for winter use.
Place the pumpkins in a warm area for 7–10 days. This will help the skins to toughen further.
A greenhouse, sunny porch, or even a sunny windowsill will work as long as it’s warm. 26- 29C (80–85F) is the best temperature for curing pumpkins.
Once your pumpkins are cured you can store them in a cool, dry place. The best temperature to store pumpkins at is 10-12C (50–55F) but they will still keep for months at temperatures as warm as 20C (68F).
This means you can easily store the pumpkins in an out of the way place in your root cellar, garage or place them around your home as decorations until your ready to cook them up.
Can I Pick Pumpkins Early?
Pumpkins are best left on the vine until they are fully ripe. But, if you are expecting a hard frost it’s best to harvest the pumpkins early.
Pumpkins that have started to turn orange will normally finish ripening after being cut from the plant. Cut the stem leaving it extra long 6 inches at least, include some of the vines if possible. Then place it in a warm, dry place to finish ripening.
Can You Eat Green Pumpkins?
Yes, you can eat green pumpkins! So don’t worry about letting them go to waste.
I bet you haven’t thought about eating immature pumpkins before right? The good news is that immature pumpkins that are light green and have soft skin can be cooked just like zucchinis and other summer squash. They are really quite good!
Fully grown pumpkins that haven’t ripened yet can also be eating green but won’t be as flavourful as full ripe pumpkins are. Use the tips above to allow the pumpkins to ripen naturally off the vine but if you need to use them up fast you can cook them as is.
Try roasting them to help bring out a sweeter taste from the unripened fruit.
Unripe pumpkins can also be fed to chickens and pigs, no need to let them go to waste!
How Long Will Pumpkins Last On The Vine?
It’s best to harvest ripe pumpkins when they are ready but if the weather conditions are good you can leave them on the vine until your first frost.
If the weather is dry and warm the pumpkins will keep in the field well. However, if you are getting a lot of rain and freezing temperatures are approaching it’s best to harvest the pumpkins right away.
How Long Does A Pumpkin Last Off The Vine?
If you pick fully ripe pumpkins off the vine and take care not to brush them and cure them well they will last 8–12 weeks in good condition for you.
Some years we’ve even had pumpkins keep as long as 6 months in our root cellar.
How To Keep Uncarved Pumpkins From Rotting
Whether your keeping pumpkins as decorations or for winter storage you want to make sure they last a long time. To keep your uncarved pumpkins from rotting one of the best things you can do is to clean the outside of the pumpkin well with bleach.
Pumpkins pick up a lot of dirt and bacteria when they are growing on the ground. The easiest way to clean them is to mix 1 part bleach with 10 parts water and wipe down the outside of the pumpkin with it.
After the pumpkin is fully dry follow the tips below for storing pumpkins.
Tips For Storing Pumpkins
Don’t place pumpkins on flat surfaces such as tables, and wooden shelves. It causes moisture to collect where the pumpkin touches the surface and it will start to rot.
Place pumpkins onto wire racks lined with newspaper or straw to encourage air circulation.
Don’t store pumpkins near other fruits like apples. They give off ethylene gas that can cause the pumpkins to spoil faster.
Check your pumpkins often and cook up any that show signs of wrinkly or not keeping well.
Coat the pumpkin in olive oil. To help your pumpkins hold moisture inside of them you can rub the skins with a little olive oil.
This forms a protective barrier that helps to keep the moisture locked inside. This can be especially helpful if you live in a very dry area.
Now that your pumpkins are harvested don’t miss these easy pumpkin dessert recipes!
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.