Storing Pumpkins & Winter Squash

 

When you bring your pumpkin (or squash) home from a farm or store, display it out of the direct sun. This will prolong its color and its quality. It also should be displayed in an area where it is protected from frost. If you display it out in the open, and the temperatures are only a few degrees below freezing, a towel or blanket placed over it at night will do the trick.

It is okay to display pumpkins and squash that you will cook in a few weeks indoors. Inside a home is too warm for long-term storage. You should never place a pumpkin directly on a wooden table top or on the carpet. It can soften on the blossom end and weep pumpkin juice. Even if it doesn't weep, the moisture in the shell can damage wooden surfaces. A hard nonporous surface can cause your pumpkin to age prematurely. Ideally put a cloth or a circle of cardboard between your pumpkin and the surface you are displaying it on. A fabric placemat with a plastic placemat placed discreetly underneath works well.

 

Pumpkins and Squash

I overwinter my favorite pumpkins, gourds and squash on my front porch. It is covered to protect it from the sun, and adjacent to the house to protect it from frost. I really enjoy during the winter months, coming home on a gloomy day, and having cheery bright pumpkins greeting me.

If you are overwintering pumpkins in a barn or storage area, it is best if you can store them in a single layer on a surface that can "breathe" underneath them. Something like cardboard, wood or straw is preferable to cement or linoleum. If you have straw available, cover the pumpkins with a loose layer to protect them from below freezing temperatures. It is important to check them every week or two, and either immediately use or discard any that are starting to soften or mold. You also should keep an eye out for mice, as they love to eat pumpkins. More than once I've picked up a pumpkin to be surprised to find it hollowed out and a family of mice are living inside!

We overwinter pumpkins in the barn using the straw method, and usually have fresh pumpkins to feed our goats as late in the year as July.

Most pumpkin varieties will store for at least 3 months. Some varieties will store successfully for 6 months or more. Today (as I am writing this) is June 15th. I still have several Jack-o-lanterns, a few butternut squash and some carnival squash displayed on my covered porch.

If your pumpkin starts to soften, you have several options.

  • Cut out and discard any soft portions and prepare the pulp as detailed here.
  • If the pumpkin flesh is soft (and not moldy), and the seeds are still firm, you can save them and eat them! Click here for directions on how to make toasted pumpkin seeds.
  • Feed it to your goats or chickens, they won't mind a bit if it's old. (Note: don't feed it to your animals if it is moldy)
  • Put it in your compost pile. Pumpkins provide necessary moisture to make a balanced compost. Next spring you will have some great compost to add to your veggie or flower garden.
  • Bury it in your garden. If you bury it a foot or so deep, it will add rich amendments to your soil. If you bury it shallow, you will likely have a hole slew of pumpkin starts for next year.
  • Save the seeds if it is NOT a hybrid (for more information on hybrids click here) to plant next year. Gently wash your seeds in warm water to remove any stringy residue. Place several layers of paper towels or newsprint in a shallow cardboard box. Place the seeds on top in a single layer and let them air dry. Depending upon the humidity of your home you may need to let them dry for several weeks. Once dry put them in a ziploc bag labeled with the date. Note: if your seeds aren't fully dry they can mold.
  • If none of the above options work for you, sadly you may have to resort to placing it in your garbage.