Whether you grow them for looks or flavor, pumpkins, squash and gourds will keep for months when properly stored.
Make the most of the last warm days of the season to improve the flavor of these vegetables. Just be sure to bring them indoors before your first hard freeze.
Harvest and Store Pumpkins, Winter Squash and Gourds:
- Judge the ripeness. The skin will be hard when ripe. Use a fingernail and gently try to puncture the skin. If the skin dents but does not puncture, the pumpkin is ready to pick. Also look for a color change at full ripeness: The stem attached to the fruit turns from green to brown and hardens.
- Cut — do not pull — fruits from the vine with a 2” stub of stem. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.
- Check for signs of mold or spoilage, and use imperfect ones for cooking right away.
- Move to a cool, dry place such as the basement or garage.
- Acorn squash and pumpkins should be used first, followed by winter squash. Butternut squash can keep for up to a year when kept cool and dry.
- Check weekly for signs of spoilage, which often begins at the base of the stem. Promptly process fruits that show mold or soft spots.
Tip: Another way to store pumpkins and winter squash is to cut them into pieces, roast until soft, and then puree before freezing in freezer-safe containers.