With autumn in full swing, pumpkins are flying off store shelves and into homes for carving. Those who are putting jack-o-lanterns out for display may be wondering how to preserve their pumpkins as long as possible.
“Pumpkins are very sensitive to temps below 45 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Virginia Cooperative Extension horticulture expert Ashley Edwards, who shared her expertise on the best ways to extend the gourd life and keep them vibrant during the Halloween season. “If your pumpkins are outdoors, take them inside if a hard frost is expected, as this will decrease their shelf life.”
“When picking out the best pumpkins, one of the most important things you can do is to select pumpkins with healthy stems that don’t have bruises, nicks, or early signs of rot,” Edwards said. “Whole, uncarved pumpkins can last from 1 to 6 months, depending on the variety, and if they are not exposed to harsh elements. Displaying them in ways that allow for good air circulation can also help.”
“If you are looking for creative ways to repurpose your pumpkins, you can save pumpkin seeds post-carving and roast them for a snack,” she said. “There are many great recipes online, including these from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.”
“To prevent waste this fall, consider composting your pumpkins,” she said. “This year’s pumpkins can be incorporated into a compost pile or garden that can be used to help grow next year’s pumpkins.”
“Pumpkin seeds can also be saved to use in your garden for next year. However, since the pumpkin might have been cross-pollinated, the resulting pumpkins from those saved seeds could be a variety of colors, shapes, or sizes,” Edwards said. “It can be fun to see what you get the next year. Only save seeds from healthy pumpkins.”
Edwards is part of a team at Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension who is working on a grant-funded project that is comparing pumpkin varieties and exploring options for extending shelf life postharvest.
– Written by Sarah Hern