Pumpkins are harvested by cutting the stem and then pulling off the pumpkin leaves. Next, you need to cut a small hole in the top of the pumpkin so that it can be easily harvested later on. Finally, use a fork to score around each pumpkin section and gently twist them away from the main body. Doing this will help loosen up any stubborn pieces of flesh and make harvesting much easier. Once all sections have been scored, you can simply remove them with your hands or a knife. Once they’re removed, it’s time to clean them up! Start by wiping down each surface with water until it is damp but not soaking wet.
How to Tell if a Pumpkin is Ready
- The Time of Year Is Right- Most cultivars take three to four (or even five) months to grow to maturity. It depends on where you live, what kind of gourd you planted, and how it grows. Depending on the variety, if you plant squash seeds in late April or early May, they’ll usually ripen in late August or late October.
- Color- The gourd color is a good sign that it is ready to be picked. Even after the vine dies in the fall, a squash may not turn entirely orange. Even if this happens, you can still pick the fruit when it’s ready.
- Does Not Get Punctured- Along with the color, the shell is one of the best ways to tell if squash is ready. If you want to keep a pumpkin for a few months, the shell should be hard and firm. If your nail makes a small hole but doesn’t go through the skin, it’s a good sign that the skin has hardened, and it’s time to pick your Cucurbit.
- Knock! Knock! Oh, It’s Hollow!- Try to knock the grind, and it’s somewhat hollow and solid. You’ve probably heard a lot of different ways people say your pumpkin is ready to pick. Each one of these phrases means something. Some are not true for all types of pumpkins, though most may apply.
- Stem Starts Getting Brown-Check the color of the stem of your gourd if it feels hard instead of slightly spongy. If it’s beginning to get dry and brown, that’s a good sign.
Tips in Picking Pumpkins
- A sharp knife or a garden lopper can remove the pumpkins from the vine. Leave a stem of 3 to 6 inches attached to the fruit when preparing it. The fruit will be protected from disease and insect attacks by the attached stem.
- When harvesting pumpkins, wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your skin from the vines’ thorns.
- Avoid nicking or bruising the skin of the pumpkins you’re working with.
- Slip your hand under the bottom of a pumpkin to lift and carry the fruit. Lifting or carrying a pumpkin by the stem can cause it to fall, crack, or break if it is too heavy. Pumpkins without stems don’t keep well in storage.
Challenges in Pumpkin Harvesting
- Powdery mildew and squash bug feeding are two of the most common problems storing pumpkins. Damage and premature deterioration of the pumpkins can result from either.
- It is possible that powdery mildew was present on the pumpkin vine during the growing season, causing the stem to decompose earlier. Powdery mildew on the stems may shorten the storage life of the pumpkin.
- Although some powdery mildew is visible on the stem, little can be done unless you can cut off the affected portion.
- Pumpkins with powdery mildew on the stem should be cut off or thrown away if the stem has completely deteriorated.
- Powdery mildew on the stem should be avoided when selecting pumpkins from a pumpkin patch.
How to Preserve and Keep Pumpkins
- Use a solution of one part chlorine bleach to ten parts water to remove soil and kill pathogens on the surface of harvested pumpkins. After washing the fruit, dry it and place it in a dry location to cure.
- Place pumpkins in a warm, 80-85°F (26-29°C) environment with 80 to 85 percent relative humidity for 10 to 14 days. Curing will toughen the skin, heal wounds, ripen unripe fruit, and, most importantly, enhance flavor.
- If frost or cold nights are expected, cover pumpkins curing with old blankets or store them in a shed or garage.
- A shed or garage will suffice for storing pumpkins at 50°F (10°C) and 60 percent relative humidity. Cool and dry storage conditions are optimal for pumpkins. Pumpkins will soften and rot below 45°F (7°C).
- Cured pumpkins have a two- to three-month shelf life. Keep the pumpkins separate from one another.
What to Do Following Pumpkin Harvesting?
After pumpkins have been harvested, the entire vine should be removed. Numerous gardeners choose to compost their vines, which is an excellent way to reuse and recycle them. Nonetheless, diseased vines (such as those affected by mildew) should be discarded.
Consider sending them to a municipal composting facility if you don’t want to bag and throw them away with your trash. These facilities heat the compost sufficiently to kill any fungus spores.