How to Tell When Pumpkins Are Ripe | Almanac.com

How to Tell When Pumpkins Are Ripe

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Choose the Best Pumpkin for Carving this Halloween!

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One of many traditions in the fall is pumpkin picking! Whether you’re growing your own this year or visiting a pumpkin patch, discover how to tell when a pumpkin is ripe for the picking.

Picking Your Pumpkin

How do you know when a pumpkin is ripe and ready for harvest?

  1. Color: Look for a pumpkin that has a deep-orange color.
  2. Give Them a Thump: Knock on the pumpkin to check that it is hollow (and therefore ripe).
  3. The Skin is Hard: Use a fingernail and gently push your thumbnail into the skin; it should dent but not puncture it. 
  4. A Hard Stem: When a pumpkin is ripe, it’s stem is also hard. Check that the stem is also secure—but never pick a pumpkin up from the stem! It may break off, which leads to faster decay.
  5. Make sure the bottom of the pumpkin isn’t soft and mushy! Also, if you are carving the pumpkin, make sure that the bottom is flat so that it doesn’t roll.

Harvesting Your Own Pumpkin

Growing your own pumpkins this year? Know how and when to harvest them correctly:

  • Your best bet is to harvest pumpkins when they are fully mature. They will keep best this way. Do not pick pumpkins off the vine because they have reached your desired size. If you want small pumpkins, grow a small variety.
  • If you are harvesting your own pumpkin, harvest on a dry day after the plants have died back and the skins are hard.
  • Cut the stem with a sharp, clean knife to avoid disease.
  • To slow decay and rotting, leave 3 to 3 inches of stem on pumpkins and winter squash when harvesting them.

If you want your pumpkin to last months instead of weeks, cure it by keeping the 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. See more about how to properly cure and store your pumpkins so they last longer!

The big yellow pumpkins will soon come handy to give the cows.
They help out the fall feed, and if there is anything better for cows in milk we should like to know it.

–The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Pumpkin Carving

Carving the Pumpkin

We like to pick a large pumpkin for easy carving, but also pick some small pumpkins for decorating your outside door or bringing inside the home as accents. For those smaller pumpkins, look for some character—bumps, wart, and funny shapes! Ready to carve that pumpkin? See simple  pumpkin-carving tips and tricks and also some more complex pumpkin-carving tips.

More Pumpkin Fun

Here are more related articles that you might find interesting:

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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