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The Great Pumpkin Harvest

The final transition to autumn is a wonderful time of year, with one last bloom before the winter takes over. For many people, one of the highlights of this season is when the large leaves of pumpkins and squash finally die back to reveal the fruits beneath. It’s the moment you discover that all of the summer growth has finally come to fruition. That’s right, it’s time for the great pumpkin harvest!

Pumpkins and Winter Squash certainly capture the flavour of autumn. If you want to enjoy this bounty for more than a mere few weeks, you will need to cure your home-grown fruits. Curing is simple the process of hardening the skins to protect the inside of the squash from deterioration. Do this the right way, you can expect fruits to stay in top form for a minimum of three months. They could even last up to six months, taking you into the harvests of next spring.

Pumpkin Harvest and Winter Squash

So, how can you tell when it is time to cure your pumpkins and winter squashes? Well, as well as acquiring their mature colour, ripe fruits have a few clues to indicate that it’s time to remove them from the dying plant. You can begin by looking at the stem. If it has died off and turned hard then you know that the fruits are ready. Other ways to tell could be to slap the fruit (it should sound hollow) and to push your thumbnail into the skin. If it dents and doesn’t puncture, then it is ready. The sheen of the fruits should also dull when it is time to harvest.

But your squashes free with a good 10 cm of the stem to ensure a failsafe seal at the top. If heavy frosts occur, you must bring in all of your fruits, even when they’re not ready. If you find yourself in a bit of a predicament, do not worry. Simply leave a bit more stem, including the 10 cm section o main stem to leave a T-shaped handle. The extra stem will allow the fruit to form a proper seal between the stalk and top of the fruit in good time.

It is important that you handle your pumpkins and squashes with care. Do not be tempted to handle them by the delicate stem. Instead, cup your fruits in the palms of your hands. Damage at this point could cause trouble later on. The aim here is to retain a perfectly intact outer skin that protects against outside moulds and fungal spores.

The Cure

Curing your fruits is a simple process. However, it does take more than a few days. Some of your fruits may be huge, so laying down this amount of food for the winter is certainly time well spent. Move the fruits to a greenhouse or a sunny windowsill after brushing off any dirt. Let your fruits soak in the sun and deepen in colour. This should take approximately two weeks or the top of the fruit. Carefully flip it over and allow two weeks for the bottom to do the same. Of course, you can enjoy some of the fruits fresh while you wait.

Though it is a long-winded process, it certainly has its value. As the kinds harden, they create a long-lasting seal. The colour then enriches as they sweeten up and the flavour becomes more intense. Once cured, the fruits can receive one final treatment before taking them to the storage shed. Add a polish of olive oil using a cloth to create a moisture-tight finish to complete the job.

How to Store your Pumpkins and Squash for the Winter

Like many fruits and root vegetables stored for winter, pumpkins and squash prefer a well-ventilated, dry place. However, this is where the similarity ends. They can be kept at up to room temperature. This means you can choose between keeping them in an outbuilding or shed or lined up in your kitchen.

Regardless, the fruits should be kept raised up off hard surfaces on racks or wire mesh, cushioned with a thick layer of newspaper or straw. Keeping them off the ground means that air can circulate. The extra padding will prevent the skin from softening and becoming vulnerable to infection. If you have lots of pumpkins and squashes, don’t be tempted to stack them up. Doing so will generate pressure points and reduce the airflow. Store them in a single layer and keep them well clear of other stored tree fruits.

Storing them in your home won’t be easy to ignore but storing them in a shed or garage means you must remember to check them regularly. Look for signs of vermin and treat accordingly. Any fruits that look like they’re turning must be used straight away.

How you store your fruits is important. By the end of winter, the fruits that are still sound will have concentrated their flavour to explosions of taste you could never imagine. With this prospect, it is worth exercising some restraint and laying down a few fruits for enjoying later on.

Talk to Ladybrook Nursery

We hope you enjoyed this autumn-themed post! While your fingers are still feeling green, why not check out the wonderful range of plants that Ladybrook Nursery has to offer. Out 13 acres of garden gems should hopefully inspire you for your next big project. Get in touch to find out more.

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