This year I was harvesting half of the pumpkin patch already. It was so dry that the stalks were dry and the plants died prematurely. With the dry weather, I left them outside on the ground for some days. Usually, this is later in the year and I would wait until the first frost threatens. A light frost would shorten the storage life of the pumpkins a severe one would ruin them altogether.
I harvest them carefully and leave a bit of the stem if you break the stem off completely, that is where the pumpkin starts getting mouldy.
By the way, what we call pumpkin is a squash for and American and for them only the very big pumpkins which are fed to cattle rather than humans are pumpkins. They also call zucchini summer squash.
According to Carol Deppe author of the fabulous book, ‘the resilient gardener’ pumpkins are then not eaten right away, because storing them for a while improves their taste. How long depends on the variety. There are three major pumpkin species: Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita pepo.
Blue Hubbard, Buttercup, Jarrahdale, Queensland Blue are all Cucurbita maxima. Butternuts, Musque de Provence are Cucurbita moschata. New England Pie, Small Sugar are Cucurbita pepo. If you have pepos, eat them first, because they don’t store well, curing is only seven to fourteen days. The same curing period is for the moschata varieties.
The picture shows red kuri which is a C. maxima. There are Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato too, which are C.pepo, a very yummy and prolific variety, highly recommended. Optimal storing temperature is between 10 and 12 C, which is difficult.
Store pumpkins in a single layer and turn them over in the first couple of days, so that the side which touches the floor has a chance to cure as well.
Links with storage and curing times: