Michael Paraskevas Escaping the Patch

Escaping the Patch

Most pumpkins, winter squash, and gourds will mature in 90 to 120 days. Most immature fruits are green, ripening to orange, yellow, white, or pink. But color is not the only method to determine that harvest is near. Vines will begin to senesce (age and break down) and will usually twist as they dry out. The shells of ripening fruits also begin to harden, so the fingernail test is a useful tool to determine if the pumpkins are ready to harvest. If you can easily indent the skin of the pumpkin with your fingernail, the fruit is too immature to harvest. Harvesting at this stage will likely result in damaged fruit that will not keep well, so it’s worth waiting a few more days to allow the skin to toughen up.

An intact stem gives a pumpkin a nice appearance and a longer shelf life. When harvesting, cut the stem with pruners or a sharp knife; leave the stem as long as possible—a minimum of 3 to 4 inches. Because a pumpkin will rot quickly if its stem breaks off at the base, always lift with the palms of your hands instead of grabbing the stem. Cure freshly harvested pumpkins in the sun for approximately one week, then store in a cool, dry location. Make sure none of your pumpkins escape