When to harvest pumpkins

butternut pumpkin harvest

Waltham and Hercules Butternut harvest at work yesterday

At what stage do you harvest a pumpkin? This is a question I’m often asked and so I thought, as mid Autumn most pumpkins are about ready, this would make a good post for my blog today.

To develop the best flavour and increase storage life, pumpkins need to be left on the vine until fully ripe. There are a number of indicators that will show you when this is. Firstly the pumpkin starts to get a harder skin. You should get some resistance when pressing your finger nail into the skin. Secondly the pumpkin’s colour develops (the butternut pumpkins went from a pale lime/yellow to a more beige/orange colour). Thirdly the vine starts to die back and wither.

butternut pumpkin

A beautiful Butternut pumpkin in my garden which is almost ready for harvesting

Sometimes the weather can get quite cold and wet before your pumpkins are ready. You may need to lift them onto something like a plastic seed tray to keep them dry and stop the underside which is in contact with the ground from rotting. When the pumpkin is ready cut them from the vine with a sharp knife or secateurs. It’s important to leave some stem attached (50-75mm) because as this dries it will seal the pumpkin and prevent rot from getting in during storage. After drying and wiping off any dirt, store your harvested pumpkins in a dry, well ventilated shed or cupboard. Depending on the variety, fully ripened pumpkins can store for about 5 months. Don’t store any pumpkins with cracked or damaged skins as any rot that develops will quickly spread to other pumpkins. If you have room store your pumpkins so they don’t touch each other.


Jap pumpkin harvest