Pumpkin seeds are very easy to store, but they should be harvested when the fruit has reached full maturity. We have already discussed how to cultivate pumpkins, listed their properties and suggested various recipes, and shown you how to carve them for Halloween. The question we want to answer today with this article is: when to harvest the fruit? It might seem like an easy question to answer, but in reality, several factors need to be considered. For example, the color and texture of the skin, the plant’s condition, and the climate during that period.
So, let’s begin with this analysis, particularly aimed at novice home growers.
Understanding When a Pumpkin is Ripe
Before discussing seed preservation, we need to determine the best time to harvest our pumpkins.
Pumpkins typically mature in early autumn. Of course, the timing of cultivation initiation should also be considered. If they were planted late, the right time for ripening might extend into late autumn.
Therefore, the first factor to consider is time: the complete pumpkin cultivation cycle takes 5 to 6 months. Other closely related factors are the variety and color. Each pumpkin variety assumes a specific final color. There are dark orange ones, lighter ones, and even some that remain green. So, remember the pumpkin variety you cultivated and how its final color should appear. Another indicator of a ripe pumpkin is the plant’s vegetative state. The pumpkin plant starts to wither as it nears maturity. Especially when the stem that attaches the fruit is dry, you know the pumpkin is ripe. Next is assessing the skin’s texture. When pumpkins are still green or not fully ripe, the texture is softer. When it’s ripe, the skin becomes hard and isn’t easily scratched. Usually, these different factors can be collectively evaluated. However, weather conditions also need to be taken into account. If the weather remains fairly dry, pumpkins can be left on the plant to ripen. If persistent rain or cold begins to damage them, it might be advisable to harvest them even if they’re not fully ripe.
Cultivation Tips for Pumpkins
To counter the issue of rot caused by rain when the pumpkin is in contact with damp soil, a trick can be employed. Just place straw beneath the fruit, an additional form of mulching. However, it’s important to note that pumpkin rot in open fields is an unlikely occurrence. Usually, by the end of October (before the arrival of frost), pumpkins have fully ripened. Lastly, an interesting fact that might prove useful when buying whole pumpkins. In the past, to determine if pumpkins purchased at farmers’ markets were ripe, homemakers would immerse them in a container of water. If they floated, it meant they weren’t fully ripe; if they sank, they were completely ripe.
Storing Harvested Pumpkins
Our well-ripened harvested pumpkins, when stored correctly, can be used throughout the winter. The key here is the storage location: moisture-prone places should be avoided. Excessive humidity can lead to rot. The ideal scenario is to find a dry, cool, and dark location.
Pumpkin Seeds: Storage and Usage
Now, let’s see how to properly extract and store pumpkin seeds. We have already emphasized the importance of preserving your seeds, especially when they come from native varieties. We’ve covered this topic while discussing tomato seed preservation. The process of extracting and preserving pumpkin seeds is quite simple. Inside the pumpkin, the seeds are in the soft pulp, which is usually discarded. Just remove the pulp with a spoon and wash the seeds under running water, using a colander for assistance. Once the seeds are completely free of pulp residues, they need to be dried. Typically, this is done by placing the seeds on brown, highly absorbent paper, often used for bread. To expedite this process, you can place the seeds and paper in the sun for a few hours. Truly straightforward. Once dried, pumpkin seeds can be stored in glass jars and used for the next planting. The seeds maintain a high germination rate for up to two years, but they provide the best guarantee after the first year.
Roasting Pumpkin Seeds
An obvious consideration at this point is that a single pumpkin can produce hundreds of seeds. For future plantings, you won’t need nearly as many. Therefore, you can utilize the remaining pumpkin seeds in your kitchen preparations. The simplest recipe involves roasting and consuming them as is. Pumpkin seeds are indeed edible and very tasty. Roasting involves two steps:
- Clean the seeds from the pumpkin pulp, dry them, and place them in the oven at 35°C for 3 hours.
- Remove them from the oven, spray them with plenty of salted water (400 grams of salt per liter of water), and put them back in the oven at the same temperature for about 5-6 hours.
At this point, allow them to cool in the oven itself, and then you can store them in simple paper bags. If you don’t have the means to prepare pumpkin seeds, you can find excellent already roasted and organic ones in the market (if desired, you can find them here).
- Scientific African – Volume 10, November 2020 – “The potential of pumpkin seeds as a functional food ingredient: A review”: The purpose of this review is to merge the evidence-based information on the potential use pumpkin seeds as a functional food ingredient and associated biological mechanisms, collected from electronic databases.
- Compendium of Research Insights of Life Science Students. (pp.735-736.) – “The Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds”.
- Food Science & Nutrition – “Quality assessment and variety classification of seed-used pumpkin by-products: Potential values to deep processing”: In this study, potential values of seed-used pumpkins’ by-products (SUPBs, peel and pulp) as food resource were investigated. Physico-chemical, nutritional, and aroma profile of ten varieties of SUPBs were characterized, and variety differences were also distinguished.