Fall is finally here! I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. I love all of the fall things including harvesting pumpkins, colorful leaves, warm drinks, and cozy fires.
The fall colors are absolutely beautiful this year. The mountains surrounding our property are lit up with the beauty of the season.
As I write this post I am warmed by the antique wood stove we recently purchased. The wood heat not only warms the atmosphere but also warms my heart. Talk about cozy fires!
Our Summer garden has wilted away after providing our family with abundance. Now, our fall garden is flourishing. One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to harvest, cure and process our pumpkins.
The pumpkins are beautiful this year. Our pie pumpkins are a brilliant bright orange and the Cushaw pumpkins have their characteristic green and white stripes.
How to Harvest Pumpkins
It is important to know that pumpkins do not continue to ripen once they are picked. That is why it is crucial to know when they are ready.
Picking an unripened fruit of this sort is very disappointing especially after putting in the effort to grow them and waiting months for the prize.
When are they ready to harvest?
Pumpkins are ready to harvest once the vines have died off and wilted away. They will also have ripened to the fullness of color for their variety. There are many arrays of color when it comes to pumpkins. That’s one of my favorite things about them!
To check your pumpkins (and other winter squash and gourds), you can press your thumbnail into the skin and if it doesn’t pierce it, your pumpkin is ready! If it pierces or leaves a noticeable indention, give it a little longer to ripen. Don’t worry, the skin will heal over where you checked it.
Once your night temperatures are regularly dipping into the 40’s, you want to get those pumpkins harvested. Over time, these lower temps can damage the fruit and nobody wants that to happen. You definitely need the harvest them before a frost as it would severely damage them.
When harvesting pumpkins it is a good idea to leave a 2″-3″ portion of the stem attached. Pumpkin vines can be very tough, we like to like to use pruning shears to cut them free from their vines.
Leaving the portion of stem attached helps them cure and last longer in storage which is a great thing. We seldom have time to harvest and process all at the same time (plus the flavor gets better as it ages). Being able to store the pumpkins affords us the time we need until we can get to processing them.
If you’re anything like me, you also just want the pumpkins to last a while so you can admire how pretty they are and enjoy them as a decoration until you get to enjoy them as a pie and roast those seeds as a tasty treat.
How to Cure
Pumpkins will need to be cured in order to store well and not begin to rot. So, how does one go about curing a pumpkin anyways?
It is a simple process that results in the outer skin hardening enough to keep the inner contents safe and fresh for 2-3 months in storage. This process will also heal any scars or mars on the skin.
In addition, curing them will greatly improve the flavor. Fresh, uncured pumpkin will have a more starchy flavor where a cured one will be much sweeter. This is true for all winter squash varieties.
To cure your pumpkins, you simply set them in a sunny, dry spot for at least 2 weeks. This could be leaving them in your garden, setting them on a porch, placing them in a sunroom, or a sunny window.
If you choose a spot in or around your home, you get to enjoy looking at them and feeling all of the fall feels as they cure. It is a win win situation in my book!
How to Properly Store
The ideal way to store a pumpkin would be in a cool, dry, and dark space. While a root cellar would be perfect, most of us do not have that luxury these days. A basement that stays dry will also do the trick.
If you don’t have a basement, you can always place them in the back of a pantry or closet. I’ve even heard of people storing them under beds. Just be sure to check them often so you can catch any spoilage before it becomes a disastrous situation. Spoiled produce left unfound for a while is pretty gross!
If you are hard pressed for space or just don’t have anywhere that is conducive to storing pumpkins, you can go ahead a process them for canning or freezing. I’ve written in detail about how we puree’ and freeze our pumpkins and you can read that here.
When you do process your pumpkins, be it right away or after they have stored for a bit, don’t forget about those seeds! They are delicious and full of nutrition. The pumpkin seeds are good for humans and animals alike. Personally, we love to roast our pumpkins seeds.
I am truly a fall loving girl! It is my favorite time of the year. Well, I say that but when spring rolls around, I’m feeling pretty excited about that season too. I don’t think I’d want to have to choose a favorite between the two. But I digress…..
Back to fall. It just makes me so happy. I love the change of season and all it brings, the cooler air, the beautiful colors, the delicious food, and the fun produce and decorations. Sigh…. I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it and I hope you do too!
Ways to Use Pumpkin
We’ve talked all about how to harvest, cure, and store pumpkins. Now, what are you going to do with them once you’re ready to process them?
Here are some ideas from me and some of my friends and fellow bloggers:
From Ann at A Farm Girl in the Making:
From Amy at The Fewell Homestead:
From Melissa K. Norris:
Jill at The Prairie Homestead:
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