Q: My kids and I are growing a few pumpkins in the back yard for a “family competition”. They have already started turning orange and look to weigh about 35 pounds. How do we preserve them until Thanksgiving for the official weigh in?
A: Pumpkins should be harvested when they are uniformly orange and the rind is so hard that you can’t easily press a thumbnail through it. Immature fruits may ripen during the curing process but not after the vines are killed by frost. Harvest a pumpkin by cutting it off the vine with a sharp knife, leaving 3-6 inches of the stem attached to the fruit. Do not carry the pumpkin by the stem.
Wash with a solution of one part of chlorine bleach to ten parts of water. Make sure the fruits are well dried afterwards before setting in a dry, warm place to “cure” for 10 days. During this process the skin hardens, wounds heal and immature fruit ripens. After curing, store the pumpkins in a cool, dry place. Don’t place them on a concrete floor; they will absorb moisture from it and will rot. May the best pumpkin win!