How To Harvest And Store Pumpkins And Winter Squash
Are you wondering how to harvest and store your pumpkins and winter squash to keep them fresh? Over the years I’ve kept a number of different squashes and pumpkins for winter cooking, with varying results. Here are some tips to increase the storage life of these tasty, nutritious fruits. (Yes, botanically speaking, they are actually fruits!)
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Harvesting Your Pumpkins & Squash
Wait until the fruits are fully colored, and have stopped growing before you harvest them. The skin should be hard and will lose some of its shine when it is ready to pick. If they aren’t ripe, the skin hasn’t had time to toughen up…which makes it more susceptible to nicks, scrapes, and rot.
Before the first frost, harvest your squash and pumpkins with a sharp knife, leaving 3 or 4 inches of stem intact.
As you harvest and move squash or pumpkins…don’t carry by their stems. The weight of the fruit can cause the stem to break off, allowing bacteria and mold to grow on the ‘wound’.
Storing Your Pumpkins & Winter Squash
To give your squash and pumpkins a longer storage life, wash the entire surface with a mild bleach solution and allow to cure in a warm (around 80 degrees Fahrenheit), dry area out of direct sunlight for 1 or 2 weeks. This will help the skin toughen up for storage.
Once your pumpkins and squash are cured check them for any bad spots, cuts, or scrapes that may shorten their storage life. Use these fruits up first, or you may also can or freeze them.
A thin layer of mineral or vegetable oil may be applied to the surface of your pumpkins, winter squash, and gourds to protect the skin from bacteria and mold. Use a clean cloth to rub the oil over the fruit and buff it to a nice shine.
Store squash and pumpkins in a cool (50 – 60 degrees F), dry area. Place them on cardboard, hay or straw, or on a clean wooden shelf. Do not store on concrete because the condensation can cause rot.
Check your stored pumpkins and winter squash on a regular basis. Use up, compost, or feed them to your chickens if you find any with bad spots. Be sure to clean their ‘neighbors’ with a mild bleach solution to prevent the spread of disease organisms.
Properly stored, your pumpkins and winter squash should last anywhere from 2 months through the entire winter, depending on the variety and the storage conditions.
Best Pumpkins And Winter Squash For Storage
Here are some of the best varieties for keeping over the winter:
These varieties taste best after aging for a month or so in a cool, dry, dark spot.
Use These Ones Up Quickly!
Some varieties of pumpkin or winter squash are best used within 2 to 4 months of harvest. These include:
- Sweet Dumpling
- Spaghetti squash
- Red skinned hybrid Hubbard squashes, such as Red Kuri
- Small Sugar pie pumpkin
- Winter Luxury pie pumpkin
Plant Several Varieties!
If you have space, plant several different varieties of squash and pumpkin. Not only are they beautiful additions to your fall decor, but your tastebuds will appreciate the variety of flavors and textures.
Although I have my own personal favorites (Butternut, Delicata, and Sweet Dumpling!), I always enjoy trying new varieties. There is something very satisfying about harvesting a bountiful crop of squash and pumpkins in different hues, sizes, and shapes. 🙂
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