Many pumpkins seemed to mature early this year due to September heat. Pumpkins should be kept on the vines as long as possible IF the vines are healthy. If vines go down due to powdery mildew or frost, cut the handles from the vine to reduce shrinkage. This also avoids sunscald. Use hand pruners or long handled loppers.
Although we have had an extended period of warm weather, it will undoubtedly end soon. Pumpkins exposed to freezing conditions don’t store well. They should be harvested and brought indoors. You may have already brought them inside if they turned a solid orange and the rind was hard – a good move.
As long as pumpkins are starting to turn color, they will ripen and color off the vine. Recommended curing conditions are seventy degree days and sixty degree F nights. The area should be shaded, dry and well-ventilated. Remember that pumpkins for decoration are used through Thanksgiving so fruit late to color will still be useful. Cooking types can be cooked and frozen for later use.
Should you save seed from a particularly attractive pumpkin? Probably not since pumpkins cross readily with summer squash. Bees can carry pollen from as much as a mile away even if you don’t grow summer squash in your garden. Pumpkins don’t cross with fall squash.
Keep in mind that the pumpkins used for pies and eating, called sugar or pie pumpkins, have less water and better flavor than the strigy, Jack-o-lantern types. Most are a different species (Cucurbita moschata) as opposed to the decorative carving Jack-o-lantern varieties which are Cucurbita pepo. Grow different types of pumpkins for different purposes.
Check this “Pumpkin Eater” article by Shirley Perryman in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at Colorado State University for ideas about some novel uses of pumpkins and their health benefits.
What experiences did you have with growing pumpkins this year?
Photo credit: Pumpkin display, Pumpkins in garden, Just turning pumpkins harvested, Same green pumpkins ripened 3 weeks later - All Carl Wilson