They come in all kinds of shapes and colours, are therefore hard to imagine an atmospheric decoration without them, and it is their taste that delights from sweet to nutty or fruity to buttery: pumpkins enrich our gardens and kitchens, especially in autumn. But what exactly should we pay attention to when harvesting and storing pumpkins? Here are our tips and tricks.
Pumpkin: Autumn is harvest time!
Why harvest and store pumpkins when they look so pretty in the garden? In the morning, the mist still drifts across the meadow and the day promises to be one of those special sunny late autumn days. Then the pumpkins shine far and wide in the autumn sun, the small yellowish-orange ‘Mandarins’, ‘Spagetti’ pumpkins and ‘Jack Be Littles’, the white ‘Pattisons’ and yellow ‘Swan necks’, the dark orange ‘Hokkaidos’ and the bulbous, orange lantern pumpkins.
But as beautiful as it looks when large and small pumpkins populate the garden and announce that autumn has arrived: The garden is not the best place to store them. It is too humid here, and the first night frosts make the fruits soggy. If you want to enjoy tasty and pretty pumpkins, you should start harvesting and storing them in good time.
Harvesting pumpkins: this is how it works!
Keep an eye on the weather and protect the tasty treats from soil moisture with a base made of polystyrene or cardboard. However, you should harvest and store the pumpkins no later than the first long period of rain. It is better to use the fruit vegetable for delicious dishes such as baked pumpkin. Or move it to a suitable and dry place – either decoratively on the front steps or in a sheltered storage area.
The perfect time to harvest and store a pumpkin is not only dependent on the weather. It also depends on the variety and the time of planting. Depending on the variety, harvesting can begin as early as the end of August or last until autumn. However, since the majority of all pumpkins ripen from September to October, you should choose a sunny, dry autumn day.
Important: Do not wait longer than until the first night frosts.
You can tell by these signs whether a pumpkin is ripe and protected from spoilage:
The pumpkin has an intense colour (easily visible with orange varieties such as Hokkaido). The stem is woody, dry and difficult to cut with a knife or scissors. The skin has become so hard that you can no longer damage it with your fingernail.
If you want to store your pumpkins after harvesting, you can help your harvest last longer with a few tricks. For example, pumpkins that are to be stored for a long time after harvesting must not have any deep injuries and the stem must remain attached to the fruit. This prevents rot from creeping into the pumpkin via the stem. Also remove any clumps of soil with a brush or damp cloth.
Good things take time
Late-ripening varieties such as ‘Butternut’ and ‘Muscade de Provence’ usually do not ripen completely in the bed. They already have a hard skin, but the stalk is not yet dry. Depending on the weather, leave them on the plant as long as possible or ripen them in a room at about 20 °C for two to three weeks. Then they go into storage with the other pumpkins.
However, pumpkins should not be stored in a damp, cold potato cellar after harvesting. They have other requirements. They like it rather dry and warm at 12 to 17 °C. Every one to two weeks they are checked. The fruits are lifted and checked for rotting.
How long does a pumpkin keep?
How long a pumpkin will keep varies. The giant pumpkin ‘Rouge vif d’Etampes’, also called ‘Roter Zentner’, for example, will last about three months if stored properly, Hokkaido about six to seven months and the Muscat pumpkin even a year or longer. If you want to store pumpkins for a particularly long time, it is best to use the latter.
Some ornamental pumpkins can even be stored at room temperature after harvesting: ‘Patisson’, ‘Baby Boo’, ‘Jack Be Little’ and the bottle gourds don’t mind at all. Their skin becomes even harder and the flesh dries out. This is how they keep for years!
For vegetable pumpkins, however, the kitchen or living room should only be a stopover. The flesh soon loses its flavour and becomes mealy. But there is a method you can use to quickly preserve your harvested pumpkins.
Can pumpkin be frozen?
Many recipes herald the diversity of culinary pumpkin ideas, but what if there is no time to elaborately process the whole fruiting vegetable? Then you can easily freeze the pumpkins after harvesting and store them in the freezer. Cut the flesh into pieces and blanch them for about 4 minutes in boiling salted water. The pumpkins prepared in this way can be frozen wonderfully in freezer bags or keep-fresh boxes.
And what about the pumpkin seeds?
For most pumpkin fans, pumpkin seeds unfortunately still count as kitchen waste, but they are far too good for that. So please don’t throw them away!
The seeds are not only delicious, but also contain many ingredients that have a positive effect on our bodies. For example, they contain the essential amino acid tryptophan. This is converted into serotonin in the body, which can have a positive effect on mood and helps us cope with stress, which is why it is also known as the happiness hormone.
The polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids contained are also said to have a protective effect on our cardiovascular system. They are also said to lower our blood pressure, promote blood circulation and more. But that’s not all.
They also make a savoury snack. Washed, dried for 24 hours and mixed with oil, salt and spices, they go into the oven at 150 °C for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix them every 5 minutes. Once they are roasted to a golden brown, they can be eaten either with or without the shell.