Pumpkins and winter squashes: storing
The ability to store pumpkins and winter squashes for up to six months adds to the pleasure of growing them. However, there are a few guidelines worth following to ensure they store well.
Timing In the autumn, before the first frosts
When to store
Store pumpkins and winter squashes from early to late autumn. Allow the fruits to mature on the plant for as long as possible to accumulate the highest quantity of sugars from the leaves, but before frost arrives (frosted fruit will not store). The foliage around the fruits can be cut away near to harvest time to encourage ripening.
How to store
Follow the tips below for the best results in storing pumpkins and winter squashes:
- Place a wooden board or tile underneath ripening fruits to protect them from discoloration and slug damage
- When fruits develop a tough skin, ring hollow when lightly tapped, and have a deep, rich colour, they should be ripe
- When harvesting fruit, take off as much stalk as possible, using secateurs, as rot starts from that end. Be careful not to use the stalk as a handle as this can cause further damage to fruit
- Once removed from the plant, the fruits should be allowed to ‘cure’ outdoors in the sunlight for about a week to ten days, covering them at night if frost is expected (using cardboard or straw for protection)
- Alternatively, cure the fruit in a greenhouse, polytunnel or cold frame, where the fruit will be protected from frost and wet weather, but become well-ripened and any wounds will heal. Ensure fruits do not touch each other
- Pumpkins and winter squashes can then be stored in a well-ventilated position at a temperature under 15°C (60°F) and no colder than 10°C (50°F). Watch for signs of rot, and remove any affected fruit immediately
- Depending on the cultivar and conditions provided in storage, fruits should keep for up to six months
The most common problems with storing pumpkins and winter squashes are as follows:
- Frost-damaged fruit will not store and should be consumed as soon as possible
- If fruits are not allowed to ripen (‘cure’) on the plant, they are more likely to go mouldy
- Winter squashes may not be as flavoursome if harvested too early
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