It is a given that October is all about Halloween décor and spooky frights, but no one likes to walk onto a porch that smells like rotting pumpkins. Unfortunately, the fact is, pumpkins don’t last forever.
Be that as it may, there are a number of steps you can take to make your pumpkins last longer. If you’ve been wondering “how long do pumpkins last?”, the answer depends on a variety of factors, including the type of pumpkin you have, what you do with it (paint it, carve it, save it for cooking) and what you do to preserve it.
Let’s explore pumpkin preservation to help you figure out how long your pumpkin will last and give you insight into increasing your pumpkin’s longevity:
Let’s start at the bottom (literally) If you have your pumpkin patch, August is the right time to pick weeds off your vine. Make sure you regularly check your vine for powdery mildew as this will rot the fruit from within.
Make sure to trim the vine to provide breathability to the plants and keep dead plant matter at bay. Remember a healthy plant has healthy produce and that is key to making your pumpkin last longer.
How to Pick The Right Fruit
Remember to harvest your fruit before the first frost. Once you are ready to harvest your pumpkin, make sure to pick one that is firm. An easy way to test if the pumpkin is ripe is to look at the stem and make sure it is dry.
The fruit should sound hollow when tapped with a flat hand and your thumbnail should not puncture the skin of the pumpkin.
How to Cut The Fruit Off The Vine
Leave 4 inches at the stem to ensure a good seal at the top and minimize the risk of mold inside making sure to leave the T shape on the stem.
Use a sharp knife to sever the fruit off the vine. After cutting, handle the pumpkin carefully to avoid damaging skin by cupping it gently in your hands.
Increasing The Longevity of Your Pumpkins
Picking the right pumpkin can be hard enough, but keeping it from spoiling can be an even more difficult task.
Pumpkins, after all, are natural and do have a limited shelf life. If you like to start decorating very early in September, use our tips to make your pumpkin display lasts as long as possible, so you can enjoy your pumpkins for the entire fall season.
Curing The Pumpkin
It is important to harden a pumpkin (or cure it) to make it last longer. Curing can help a pumpkin last for three months longer than it otherwise would.
To cure, first brush off any dirt and move the pumpkin into a warm place like a greenhouse or sunny window. Leave it for two weeks on one side and then turn it over, flipping it so that it is upside down for the remaining two weeks.
After four weeks are done, pour a little bit of olive oil on a soft cloth and polish the pumpkin. If you are interested in eating the pumpkin, curing also increases the intensity of the flavor. Curing ensures the skin hardens making a tough shell that protects the flesh inside and helps a pumpkin taste more fresh. It can help store consumable pumpkins for up to 6 months.
Now that the pumpkin is cured, it is ready for storage.
Storing a Pumpkin
To lengthen the shelf life you should choose a dry, frost-free, and well-ventilated room to store your pumpkin. The ideal temperature to store a pumpkin is 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius.
Avoid laying the pumpkin on a hard surface, rather cushion it on straw or newspaper. Skip packing pumpkins one on top of the other. Instead, you should store them in a single layer and off the ground to allow air to circulate.
Keep your pumpkins away from other fruits, like apples , as they can emit gasses that can speed the aging of pumpkins. Check your pumpkins regularly as one bad pumpkin can spread rot to the whole lot.
If you have grown a pumpkin but aren’t ready to decorate it just yet, make a cute harvest display by simply propping up some slatted boxes or pallets, layering on some straw or brightly colored paper and placing your cured pumpkin on this.
Once you are ready to decorate your pumpkin, keep in mind that a painted pumpkin will generally last longer than one that’s carved. Especially if you have little kids, painting is the way to go!
Regardless of painting or carving, you can follow the guide below to make your painted pumpkins last easily until Thanksgiving and your carved pumpkins last till Halloween.
Keeping Your Pumpkin From Molding
A trick to making pumpkins last is using a solution of bleach and water to keep the pumpkin from molding.
Prepare a bucket of water by mixing 2 tbsp bleach per gal water with a couple of squirts of dish soap. Gently put the pumpkins in the solution to avoid denting them, and allow them to soak. Be sure to handle them carefully so they don’t smush as they will be slippery from the soap. Wait for about thirty minutes and scrub the pumpkins lightly before rinsing them off.
Let them air dry for fifteen minutes on one side then flip them upside down and let dry for fifteen minutes on the other side.
To seal them well you can use a clear matt sealer (eg Krylon color master clear coat) Spray the tops and let it dry then flip the pumpkin and spray the bottom and let it dry. You can repeat for two coats. Now you can paint the pumpkin or simply leave it as is and wrap some eucalyptus glow light décor around it!
Preserving a Carved Pumpkin
If carving your Halloween pumpkin is a festive family tradition in your home, make sure to glance over these tips.
Gut the pumpkin by cutting off the top at a slight angle so it won’t fall into the fruit.
The key in gutting is to get all of the pulp out by scooping away the flesh as much as possible. Try to get the inside of the pumpkin as thin as possible to keep the bugs at bay.
Pick a pattern for your pumpkin, print, or draw it on some paper and moisten the paper with some water. Lay your design flat on the pumpkin and use a thumbtack to poke holes along the design, tracing it on to the pumpkin. Use a knife to cut out your design.
After carving the pumpkin it’s best to limit the heat inside the pumpkin. There are plenty of affordable options for LED lights, glow sticks or battery lit candles that can even flicker to mimic a real candle. If you do want to use a candle, you can keep it small so it won’t excessively heat your pumpkin.
A major problem when it’s not cold enough outside is bugs. One easy cure is to place a bug light away from your décor to attract the bugs to it.
Try to arrange your pumpkins on a porch and not under the sun to limit deterioration from the elements. After all, even naturally, a pumpkin is shaded from the sun by its large leaves. Try to keep the display off the floor and well ventilated to lengthen its shelf life.
Keep Your Pumpkins Looking Great All Season
Now that you know all the top tips for making your gourd last long, you’re all set for a fabulous fall finish.
Excited for more pumpkin content? Keep learning all about pumpkin plants to become an expert on pumpkin planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!