Fall has arrived and the trees have started to develop their rich seasonal color. Halloween is just around the corner. You have successfully grown pumpkins to their full size and it is time to pick the spherical gourds of bright orange. Here are a few tips to help you know when your pumpkin is done and how to pick the perfect pumpkin.
Knock on the skin of the pumpkin; if it sounds hollow then it is probably ready. As you do so, imagine the flesh the skin, the seeds, and all of the goop that is inside your pumpkin and get excited!
You should use more than one clue to make sure that your pumpkin has developed enough to give you the results you want. Another clue to determine if the pumpkin is done is to press your fingernail into the skin. If the pumpkin skin breaks, then wait a few more weeks. You want to see the skin resist the pressure of your nail. If you do check the pumpkins too early and make a small cut, don’t worry. The cut can “heal” during the curing phase of your harvest.
Pumpkins will keep growing and keep gaining size on the vine until they start to rot, so finding the perfect time to harvest is a waiting game between size and development.
Once you determine that your pumpkin is suitable to pick, you can start your harvest. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the pumpkin from the vine. Leave as much of the “handle” or stem on as possible. Leaving the stem on the pumpkin makes for a more attractive pumpkin as well as helps the pumpkin last for longer. You can remove extra stem later as you use each pumpkin.
Cure your pumpkins by placing them in a warm, humid environment for 10 days. Make sure that they are spread out and not squishing each other. Once you cure your pumpkins move them to a cool, dark and dry location for storage. It is always important to make sure each pumpkin has good ventilation around it.
Check every so often that there is no rotting going on around your pumpkins. Remove any fruit that may be next to the pumpkins or any pumpkins you notice have started to rot. Rotting flesh will trigger nearby pumpkins to rot quicker.
So far you have checked, harvested, cured and stored your pumpkins properly, now comes the fun part! You can carve up your pumpkin to whatever creative designs or shapes you want it to be. Carving pumpkins can make a great date or large group activity.
You can also cook with your pumpkins! Even magic lanterns and jack o’ lanterns are edible. They will just have more of a “squashy” flavor than a traditional pie pumpkin would have.
Whatever you do with your pumpkins, reflect on all of the time and energy you have spent this season preparing this fall harvest delight! Happy harvesting!
Jake Frazier is an outdoor enthusiast and the owner of Residential Ecology, a sustainable ecological resource management company. He uses existing natural systems to improve the quality of life for both humans and the Earth. Jake is interested in permaculture, living systems and exploring. Connect with him on LinkedIn.