To take a step back to when they were growing, remembering that hindsight is a beautiful thing of course, pumpkins and squash will store better if they’ve received good levels of calcium and magnesium during the growing season. If you didn’t this season, next season, consider a good dollop of dolomite lime around the root zone of your plants. Just growing them on top of your compost heap (or silage stack as the case may be) won’t necessarily guarantee their longevity in storage, as the ripening fruit won’t have the cell strength to survive as long.
Assuming you’ve had a great crop and the fruit need to be attended to:
- Cut the stalk or wick where it meets the vine leaving at least 10cm on top of the fruit to dry off. This acts like a cork does to a bottle of wine, sealing in the goodness while keeping moisture and disease out.
- Sit them in a dry sunny place for least least a fortnight for the skin to harden and the wick to dry.
- The best place to store them after that is in a well ventilated, dark and dry location - a shelf in the garage maybe. If you are of a vintage when you may still have a wire bed base, you have the perfect surface for this purpose! If not, hunt in the deep dark corners of a grandparent’s shed.
- Ideally the temperature will be between 10-15 degrees C with a low humidity. Colder temperatures and a higher humidity will speed decay. Higher temperatures make the flesh tough and stringy.
- There is a train of thought that turning the fruit upside down is a good idea. It’s worth a try, but otherwise upright in a single layer will do the trick and would be considered the usual way.
If you lack storage space, consider freezing raw or cooked pumpkin and squash instead. It will keep for up to a year...
Dice raw pumpkin, then blanch it to retain flavour, texture, nutrients and colour, before storing it in a freezer bag or container. Cooked pumpkin can also be frozen as pieces or as a puree.
On those cold winter nights when you need something extra for your casserole or soup, your freezer or garage shelf will hold just what you need!