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How to Harvest and Store Pumpkins

A mature pumpkin will have a hard, shiny shell that is not easily dented or punctured by a fingernail. The stem of a mature pumpkin will be hard and shriveled.

Pumpkin at harvest timePumpkins are ready for harvest 75 to 115 days from sowing depending on the variety. Pumpkins can be left on the vine until the first frost in autumn is near. Cut pumpkins from the vine two weeks before the first frost and let them cure in the sun.

When to Harvest Pumpkins

  • Harvest pumpkins when they are fully colored and the rinds are hard.
  • The color of a mature pumpkin can vary according to variety; mature coloration can be orange, white, gray, or blue-gray.
  • A mature pumpkin will have a hard, shiny shell that is not easily dented or punctured by a fingernail. The stem of a mature pumpkin will be hard and shriveled. Pumpkins will rot if harvested too young.
  • Harvest pumpkins before the first hard frost. Do not leave pumpkins in the garden if the weather turns cold and rainy or if a freeze is predicted.
  • If pumpkins can’t be harvested before cold and rainy weather comes, put hay or straw under them to prevent rot caused by contact with damp soil. (Earlier in the season, as the fruit is ripening, you can place a piece of wood or tile or a piece of cardboard or folded newspaper beneath pumpkins to prevent contact with soil and rot.)
Pumpkin on vine
Cut pumpkins from the vine with a sharp knife, pruner, lopper

How to Harvest Pumpkins

  • Cut pumpkins from the vine with a sharp knife or garden lopper. Leave 3 to 6 inches of stem attached to the fruit. The attached stem will protect the fruit from disease and insect attacks.
  • Pumpkin vines can be prickly, so protect your skin by wearing gloves and long sleeves when harvesting.
  • Handle pumpkins with care to avoid nicking or bruising the skin.
  • Lift and carry pumpkins by slipping your hand under the bottom of the fruit. Do not lift or carry a pumpkin by the stem; a heavy pumpkin can detach from the stem, fall, and crack or break. Stemless pumpkins do not store well.
Pumpkin harvested
Cured pumpkins will keep for 2 to 3 months.

How to Cure and Store Pumpkins

  • Clean harvested pumpkins with soapy water to remove soil and kill pathogens on the surface of the fruit; use one part chlorine bleach to ten parts water. Dry the fruit after washing and place the fruit in a dry place to cure.
  • Cure pumpkins by setting them in a warm place–80-85°F (26-29°C) and 80 to 85 percent relative humidity—for 10 days to two weeks. Curing will harden the skin, heal wounds, ripen immature fruit, and, importantly, improve flavor.
  • If frost or cold nights are predicted, cover curing pumpkins with old blankets or move them into a shed or garage.
  • Store cured pumpkins at about 50°F (10°C) with about 60 percent humidity, a shed or garage will do. Cool and dry are the best storage conditions for pumpkins. Pumpkins exposed to temperatures below 45°F (7°C) will soften and rot.
  • Cured pumpkins will keep for 2 to 3 months. Store the pumpkins so that they do not touch.

More tips: How to Grow Pumpkins.

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5 Comments

  1. I have a jarrandale pumpkin vine that just came up where I threw an old pumpkin out that went bad. It is covered in pumpkins. My question is the pumpkins are yellow, do they turn blue as they mature?

    • Jarrahdal pumpkin will be greenish early then fade to greenish-blue and then blue-gray. However, you have a second-generation plant of the hybrid Jarrahdal. Jarrahdal is a cross between a Blue Hubbard squash and a Cinderella pumpkin (orange). Your plant has likely reverted back in color to the color of one of its parents — Cinderella.

  2. So it’s aug 27 and my pumpkins are orange. How long should I leave them in the garden? When I pick them what do I do to ensure they will still be orange by the end of October. I live in Iowa and it’s supposed to be a high of 94 feels like temp up in the upper 90’s. Our basement, garage etc is nowhere near 50 degrees.i should also mention most of the vines are destroyed as we had a terrible wind storm (equal to category 3 Hurricane strength) here a couple weeks ago and a fence fell on our garden! The pumpkins look great And have gotten very orange in the last 2 weeks, but vines are all dying.

    • You will have to make do with the circumstances you have. Place a board or tile under all of the pumpkins still in the garden to get them up off the soil. Harvest them when the skins can not be punctured by a fingernail. Set them in a shady spot with plenty of air circulation to cure. Store them in the coolest spot you have until the end of October. Always make sure they are out of direct sunlight and they are not crowded so that air can freely circulate around them. Keep them up off the soil.

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