October and November are traditionally months when pumpkins are displayed, made into pies, carved, and generally played with. Pumpkins can keep a long time when stored properly. Do you know how to store the ones you pick from your garden?
Pumpkins are a winter squash. In fact, most “pumpkin” you buy in cans is not true pumpkin at all, but another winter squash. However, knowing that pumpkins are a type of winter squash gives you a place to start in preserving them.
Pick your pumpkins when the vine dies but before a hard freeze. They should be all orange when ripe. Cut the pumpkin from the vine with a knife, leaving 3-4 inches of stem on the fruit. Do not carry the pumpkin by the stem or it might pull off, injuring the pumpkin. It is important to avoid bruises or cuts to the fruit as that tends to make it rot.
Dust off all the dirt and wash the pumpkin in a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water. Dry the pumpkin very well. This process kills fungus and mold spores and makes the pumpkin look better.
Cure the pumpkins for about 10 days in a warm place that is around 85 degrees and has a high humidity. This lets the rind harden, allows minor skin wounds to heal, and allows immature fruit to ripen. After this period, place the pumpkins in a cool place, 50-55 degrees with a humidity of around 50-70 percent to store. Place the fruit in a single layer on each shelf, not touching each other, up off the floor, and away from apples. Concrete floors will rot the fruit if the pumpkins are set on them. Apples give off ethylene gas as they ripen, which will speed the decay of the pumpkins.
If you follow all these steps, you can save your pumpkins for 2-3 months. Check them regularly and remove any that show signs of decay, such as soft spots, as they will spread the decay through the rest of the fruit. The ones that show soft spots can be used immediately by cutting out the bad spots and processing the fruit. Pumpkin pie, anyone?