Curing pumpkins so they last months, not weeks
After you harvest a pumpkin from the field, it is a good idea to “cure” it. This hardens the skin so that it stores for months instead of mere weeks. See our article on how to cure and store a pumpkin (plus a video with more information).
Yes, pumpkins can be eaten straight away once harvested, but if you plan to keep them for longer you’ll need to cure them first and store them correctly.
When is the Pumpkin Ready?
You can tell if your pumpkins are ripe by looking at its stem. If the stem has died off and hardened, the pumpkin should be ripe. It will sound hollow when slapped, and if you push your thumbnail into the skin it should dent but not puncture it. Of course, you should also have an idea of when the pumpkin is mature by counting back the “days to maturity” on the seed packet.
Harvest pumpkins before any hard frosts.
See more information about harvesting pumpkins on the Almanac’s Pumpkin Growing Guide.
Curing Your Pumpkin
Curing allows the pumpkins to last longer for months instead of weeks. Curing hardens their skin to protect it from decay and rot. If you cure your pumpkin, it will last until Christmas! Some varieties of winter squash will even last until spring if cured.
To cure your pumpkins, cut the stem with a sharp knife, leaving 4 inches attached to the pumpkin. This minimizes the risk of molds or fungal spores developing within the fruit. Brush off any dirt.
Lift and move pumpkins carefully by cupping the fruit in your hands – don’t use the stem as a handle!
Keep pumpkins in a dry, warm place such as a greenhouse, a sunroom, your doorstep, a dry part of your garden, or sunny windowsill for at least 2 weeks.
Then carefully turn the fruits upside down and leave for another 2 weeks. This insures that the skins harden up properly. Polish your pumpkins with a little olive oil on a cloth to make them moisture-tight, and they’re ready for storage.
As soon as you see any whitish, powdery or furry patches, cut off the leaves and compost or burn them. Powdery mildew can be controlled with a simple spray of milk and water diluted at a rate of about 40% milk to 60% water, applied to both sides of the leaf. Spray liberally so that the leaves are dripping. Spray preventatively, before you see the signs of powdery mildew. Spray in bright light, and repeat every 10 days.
If powdery mildew has spread to the stem, the stem will decay and have white coloration. Avoid choosing pumpkins with powdery mildew on the stem if you are planning to cure and store.
Another problem can be squash bugs. If you see any squash bugs on your pumpkins, harvest them as soon as possible and then cure the pumpkins away from the garden.
Again, do NOT carry the pumpkin by the stem! If you accidentally break a stem while the fruits are still growing, as long as it has not become completely detached from the rest of the stem, it can be repaired. Make sure the edges of the broken part are in contact with one another, then pile organic mulch on top. Make sure to cover the point where the nearest leaves grow from, and water it well. The plant will then be able to send down new roots and repair itself.
Store pumpkins in a dry, frost-free, well-ventilated shed or room at temperatures of up to 68°F. Place them on a thick layer of newspaper or straw on a wire rack to allow air to circulate. Don’t store them near other fruits such as apples, which emit ethylene gas that can speed up aging. Check on your stored pumpkins them regularly.
Want to plan a garden with pumpkins next year? They take a lot of space but our garden planning tool will help you out. Get a free trial of the Almanac Garden Planner.
I have tried growing pumpkins for many years but the squash vine borer always seems to outwit anything that my husband or me try to do! We have tried covers, planting in different areas, cutting out the worm etc. Is there anything else that can be done?
I have dealt with the SVB. Living in central New Jersey, this pest has one generation per year,
laying it's eggs in late June/early July. Plant your pumpkin (squash) seeds when the SVB is feeding -
second week of July here. There is plenty of growing season left to raise and grow your pumpkins
(squash) without this destructive pest. Good luck.
Every few years, I have volunteer pumpkin vines. I let them grow and just leave them alone. Two years ago, one vine covered over an eighth of an acre and produced 8 pumpkins. They all weighed over 40 pounds except for the last one...it weighed 36 pounds. I processed them all but the last one and ran out of freezer space and people to give the pulp to! I gave that one to the deer! They were all wonderful, sweet and tasty...makes the best bourbon pumpkin bread EVER. I was wondering what KIND of pumpkins they were. The leaves grow hip high and are bigger around than a #1 washtub! They have white streaks and splotches all through them. The pumpkins are bright orange.
Another year, I had one which grew three pumpkins...one weighed about 60 pounds, one was 37 pounds and one was 28 pounds. I called the newspaper...it was getting close to Halloween...they sent a photographer down and the photo in the paper was titled (what else) 'The Great Pumpkin.' It was a lighter peachy orange color...I was told it was a Candy Roaster? I'd like to know what the last ones were and if the name 'Candy Roaster' could have been right on the first one. This has happened several other times over the past 30 years but the none of the others spread like the last batch and did not have nearly as many pumpkins!
I still have frozen pumpkin...bourbon pumpkin bread anyone? I absolutely LOVE to watch the vines grow...they are spectacular! Even if they didn't bear fruit, I would still leave them alone and just let them grow because they are so wonderful! I don't ever remember putting any seeds where they grew so it is all a mystery to me. A wonderful gift from God.
Can you answer my questions?
I’m glad you got to enjoy such a bountiful season! And yes you’re so right about it all being a gift from God! Any chance you can share your recipe for that delicious sounding bourbon pumpkin bread?
Please give me the recipe for bourban pumpkin bread. I will be using canned pumpkin from the store. Thank you so very much. Denise.
This is the first year I have grown pumpkins so I would love to begin to collect recipes for the flesh.
Please could I have your recipe for bourbon pumpkin bread
Yes, pumpkins grow multiple fruits per plant. Select just two or three pumpkins per plant and remove all the others to focus the plants energy on your chosen fruit.
Growing for the first time (my sons first grade school project). Completely clueless about the process other than the short paper he brought home with his seedling. Planted the seedling in May. Did not catch the powdery mildew in time, started probably late June. Saw it, but thought it was part of the growing process (I know, I know. I will freely admit there are no green thumbs in this family). Most of the plant is affected. There are already 4 pumpkins, roughly 5-6 inches diameter, that are fully orange, with a couple more smaller green ones. We cut away the affected leaves and also most of the secondary vines that housed them. It's early August. Question 1...should we just leave the pumpkins on the vine? Will they continue to grow after they are fully orange? Question 2...when is the appropriate time of year to plant? Did we plant too early in May? Question 3...Tips for when we try again next year?