Autumn won’t be complete without pumpkins. In the same breath, pumpkins cannot exist without seeds. The fall season is all about harvesting pumpkins and storing seeds so you can have a fruitful harvest come summertime - and continue the cycle of bounty for the following year. How do you harvest and store pumpkins (and other winter gourds) and seeds properly? Below are some helpful tips.
Schedule the harvest carefully
Some people harvest pumpkins as early as August, though the best time for it is still between September and mid-October. Pumpkins need to “cure” before the early frost of October smothers them. A light frost is alright for most pumpkins as long as it does not affect the surface and give way to fruit rot. Observe changes in temperature so you won’t lose most of your pumpkin and winter gourd crop to unexpected chilly weather.
Check for uniform firmness and color
Firm pumpkins are best for carving because they don’t bruise easily or collapse when handled. To test for firmness, gently poke the skin at the bottom of the fruit using your thumbnail. If your nail doesn’t puncture the skin, then it’s ripe for picking and ready to be carved.
As for color, look for a uniform orange-ness in a pumpkin patch, as this is a good indication that the pumpkins are ready for harvest. Mature pumpkins and winter squashes also lose the shiny and overly-smooth look of newly grown gourds.
Use a sharp knife or shears
Don’t attempt to pull a pumpkin off its vine using just your hands. The heaviness of the fruit combined with sheer brute force can damage the skin and snap the stem off. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears, instead. You would want to retain no less than three inches of the stem attached to the pumpkin, as this makes it more attractive especially as fall ornaments.
Collect seeds the right way (and at the right time)
If it’s a windy or wet day, forget about having a productive time collecting seeds. The wind and moisture will only scatter the seed pods or cause decay. The best time to do it would be during dry weather. Observe if your favorite plants’ seed pods have significantly changed colors; this means they are ready to be picked. Carefully pick the pods from the stalks and place them in an airing cupboard so the seeds will become easier to extract.
If it’s pumpkin or squash seeds you want to collect and store, mash the fleshy part of the fruit surrounding the seeds in a sieve, and rinse away carefully to collect the seeds. Dry as you would any ordinary seed.
De-humidify, label, and store seeds properly
Put some dessicant gel packets in airtight containers before placing your dry seeds in them. This will help you cut down on the humidity which can cause rot or fungi to wreak havoc on your seeds. Label the containers with the plant names so you won’t have a hard time curating your garden when you start planting. Store in a cool dry place.