Harvesting Pumpkins and Winter Squash
Ideally, Pumpkins and Winter Squash should be harvested when they are completely mature and have developed their full color and a hard rind. For Winter Squash, look for dulling of the skin, a yellow spot where the fruit sat on the ground, and a dry, corky stem. If there's a danger of heavy frost, or if mildew or other fungal diseases have attacked the foliage, harvesting a bit early is just fine. As long as Pumpkins and Winter Squash have started to turn color, they'll continue to ripen off of the vine.
Harvest on a dry, sunny day, wear gloves to protect your hands from prickly vines, and carry a sharp knife. Pumpkins should be cut from the vine to make sure that the handles stay attached to the fruit. If the handles break off, the fruit becomes vulnerable to decay. Sometimes Squash separates easily from the vine and sometimes not, so be prepared to cut the fruit from the stems rather than tear it away. Though these fruit seem indestructible, they need to be handled with care to avoid nicks that invite contamination.
All Important Time to Cure Pumpkins and Winter Squash should go from the garden directly into a dry, well-ventilated place where they can cure for 7 to 10 days. Curing helps to harden the skin, heal wounds and it gives any immature fruit time to ripen. During this curing period, ideal daytime temperatures are 80° to 85°F. Nighttime temperatures should not fall below 50°F.
Picking the Perfect Storage Spot When storing Pumpkins and Winter Squash, for the best results, start with fully mature, high quality, unblemished fruit that have been properly cured. An ideal storage environment is cool, dry, and well-ventilated, with a temperature that's between 55° and 60°F and a relative humidity of about 50%. Colder temperatures and higher humidity will speed decay. In relatively mild climates, an unheated garage or shed may be the a good place to store your Winter Squash and Pumpkins. In colder climates, they usually store well in a cool basement, attic or unheated bedroom.
Storage life is also determined by genetics. Some varieties store much better than others. For long-lasting Winter Squash, we recommend several heirloom varieties from Australia, including Australian Butter Squash, Triamble Squash and Jarrahdale Squash (which is said to store for up to a year!). Bugle and Honey Nut Mini Butternut Squashes typically store perfectly for four to five months. Naguri Kabocha-Type Asian Squash and Ebony Acorn Squash are next in line. Tivoli Spaghetti Squash and Zeppelin Delicata Squash have the shortest storage life and should be eaten up within six to eight weeks.
Under ideal conditions, Pumpkins have a storage life of two or three months. Our favorite keepers are New England Pie, Fairytale and Long Island Cheese Pumpkins. Even though Pumpkins are good keepers, whenever you get a free afternoon, it is nice to make your own Pumpkin Puree for the freezer. Once you have it, you can easily make a whole slew of wonderful Pumpkin dishes whenever the spirit moves you.)
Till next time this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa