How to Store Pumpkins–Three Ways!
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Pumpkins were a first for me this year. There were many factors drawing me to growing them: having my kids pick pumpkins right at home for Halloween, feeding them to my chickens, cooking with them, and I am always up for a new challenge. Only one of our plants survived a freak frost, but we had a great harvest! After you’ve harvested your pumpkins, figuring out how you want to store them is the next step. If you haven’t harvested yet and are a bit anxious about it, the University of Illinois’ Extension has a great article to reference.
Step One ~ Curing
What is curing? When you’re talking about vegetables, curing is time you give the vegetable to sit out, dry, and develop a tougher skin to protect it. It also allows any blemishes to heal and ripens anything that might not be quite ripe enough. Pumpkins need to cure for AT LEAST 10 days. They need a temperature of 80-85 F with a relative humidity of 80-85.
If the temperature and humidity are right outside, the pumpkins can cure right in the field where you pick them. Be sure they have space between them to breathe. If it is going to rain, or it is cold out, find a spot indoors where you can cure them. After 5 days, we had huge rainstorms. The pumpkins finished curing in our pantry, which holds heat well and is usually warmer than the rest of the house.
Step Two ~ Storage (whole)
Once the pumpkins have cured, store them in a cool, dry place (50-55* F with 50-70% humidity is ideal.) Make sure there is adequate air flow around them and that they do not touch each other. Stored properly this way, pumpkins should keep for 2-3 months.
Alternative Storage Methods
There are a few alternatives when storing pumpkins. If storing whole is important, you can wipe the skin of the pumpkin down with a bleach solution to stave off rotting. The North Carolina State University Extension Program has a great run down of the process Using a bleach solution should prolong the pumpkin’s shelf life to 6 months.
Pureeing & Freezing
If you grew pumpkins to use in food, a great method for storing them is to puree and freeze them. Carrie Williams Howe gives great tips in her article for Mother Earth News on how to freeze pumpkin puree. Frozen pumpkin puree keeps for a year, sometimes more, before the taste is affected.