Fall Gardening

Pumpkin Preservation Tips

Let’s face it.  Pumpkins are the bee’s knees this time of year.  Whether you prefer to sip on them in your pumpkin spice latte, taste them in your pumpkin muffins, decorate with them to delight, or carve them into terrifying faces, they are almost guaranteed to make some kind of appearance in your home this season.  When buying fresh pumpkins for decorating, we can sometimes forget that pumpkins are essentially just another type of produce (wait…is pumpkin a fruit or a vegetable? It’s a fruit!).  And just like any other produce, it will eventually rot.  Since it has been so warm lately, we have experienced the challenge of keeping our pumpkins from rotting so we have gleaned the interwebs for the best tips for keeping pumpkins fresh.

If you’ve been to the Garden Center recently, you may have already picked out your pumpkins for decorating and carving. And if you haven’t come by to pick out your pumpkins yet, we hope to see you soon. 🙂 When you pick your pumpkins, choose pumpkins that don’t have blemishes, and make sure there are no mushy or soft spots. Whether you are keeping pumpkins uncarved or carved, we’ve got what you need to know.

Uncarved Pumpkins

Clean Your Pumpkin

Pumpkins will have dirt and bacteria, so plan to wash your pumpkins thoroughly. Be gentle so that you do not gouge or damage it (that would make it more susceptible to rotting).   You can wash your pumpkins using one of these cleaning solutions:

  • Bleach Solution (one part bleach to ten parts water)
  • Water and dish soap or peppermint castile soap
  • Water and vinegar (one part vinegar to three parts water)

Dry Your Pumpkin

Make sure to dry your pumpkin completely.  Moisture and pumpkins are NOT friends.

Preserve Your Pumpkin

Not talking about jelly, jam or fruit butter here.  There are a couple of methods you can use to protect the exterior of your pumpkin.  Choose ONE of these methods:

Keep Your Pumpkin Cool

Yes.  You can don your pumpkin with a pair of shades, but that won’t help it last longer.  Place your pumpkin where it will not be in direct sunlight or in the rain (remember what I said about pumpkins and moisture).  On days that you know it is going to be really hot (like the days we are experiencing right now), bring your pumpkins into the coolness of the AC, or at least put them in a shady spot.  Come on, cool weather, For Garden’s Sake!!  

Carved Pumpkins

For carved pumpkins, keeping them from rotting is much more difficult, so just know that once you carve your pumpkin, you will be lucky if it lasts a week.  To help it last as long as possible, here ya go:

Cut the Hole in the Back or the Bottom

Yes, we know you have always cut the pumpkin in the top, but just because you have always done something one way doesn’t make it right. 😉 Pumpkins usually rot from the top to the bottom. So change it up this year and open that badboy up from the bottom or the back.  Try it!

Gut Well and Dry Well

It’s your favorite part of pumpkin carving: pulling out all the pumpkin seeds and gooey fibers.  Do your best and get out as much as possible.  Use a large metal spoon to help you scrape the sides.  Dry the insides as much as you can.  Use paper towels or even stuff your pumpkin full of newspaper to draw out the moisture.  

Once you have finished carving your pumpkin masterpiece, make sure to also dry the exposed edges well, too.   

Soak It Up

Give your jack-o-lantern a bath.  Soak it in a bleach bath (1 teaspoon bleach per gallon of water) or wash it thoroughly with a peppermint castile soap solution.

Keep It Fresh

Let your pumpkin dry completely, then choose one of the options below to keep it fresh:

  • Spray daily with a bleach solution (use ratio above)
  • Spray daily with a pumpkin spray (either store bought or homemade)
  • Spray with WD-40 (just once or after each soak)
  • Rub with petroleum jelly (just once or after each soak)

If your pumpkin starts to wilt, let it soak overnight in cold water.  Keeping it in the fridge at night will also help it to keep it from wilting and/or rotting.

Keep the Fruit Flies Away

Those pesky fruit flies are not only annoying, they are also cause your fruit (pumpkin) to rot more quickly.  Place a fruit fly trap either inside the pumpkin itself or very nearby.  They are very easy and cheap to make. All you need is a jar, hammer, nail and cheap beer. (PS.  The beer is for the flies, not you, silly!)  Here are some easy DIY instructions.

NOTE:  Some of these things we haven’t tried before, so please let us know how it goes!

We hope these tips will help you enjoy your pretty pumpkins as long as possible.  Good luck, friends!

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