Should I pick orange pumpkins?

gamebirdAugust 6, 2009

Silly question because I've already picked them, but I have quite a few more pumpkins ripening so the advice would be helpful.

What I want to know is when a person should pick pumpkins. The books I have say to wait until just before the first frost. But what if the pumpkins are entirely orange now? What if the plant dies or is struggling due to squash vine borers?

In the past, in Minnesota, I had some pumpkins stolen off my vines and it really ticked me off. So this year (even though I haven't had theft problems here in OK), as soon as it seemed the pumpkins were entirely orange and weren't growing anymore, I picked them. There's three. I brought them in, but I think I need to take them back out tomorrow to cure them.

If I have picked them impossibly too early and they're going to rot, please tell me so I can make soup out of them rather than trying to save them for Halloween.

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Gamebird - No worries! We picked them last year in late June and they were STILL good for Halloween and/or soup/pumpkin butter. We brought them into the house and just kept them out where air could on top of a desk or cabinet. Our home thermostat is set around 75 during the day and 72 during the nite. They're nice to see! And picking them was much better than leaving them to rot! Grandkids got to take their pick home to carve months after they were harvested. We've already picked 3 (the biggest was 16.6 lbs!) ...and there are about 2 more ready any day. We've also got about 4 more that have just started to I think we might be set! This weird growing season has had it's benefits.

Short story - I don't think they'll rot or you picked too early from my experience. One of ours even still had a few green stripes which have diminished in the last week or so. I still think it's fine. It's kinda nice that we have these rewards at the end of the "gardening season", don't you think?


    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 11:50PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Game bird,

I agree with Paula that most likely you did not pick them too early.

For future reference, here's a couple of other indicators to use to determine if they're ready to pick:

A) They've reached either a deep orange or deep orange-yellow color (or white or golden-orange as applicable, depending on the variety);

B) The stem has gotten woody;


C) When you try to scratch the rind with your thumbnail, it is pretty hard and resists the scratching.

As far as whether they are going to rot or not, as long as they pass the thumbnail test they shouldn't. The exception to that would be if you pulled them off the vine instead of cutting them and leaving 3 or 4" of stem attached to the pumpkin. Sometimes, when they are pulled instead of being cut, there is an opening at the stem end that lets rot set in.

Glad the pumpkins have done so well!


    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 3:29PM
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I knew to leave a couple inches of stem on, because that's the way to do it for acorn squash. The stems were very woody. I had to use a sharp knife to cut them so I wouldn't risk damaging the vine. They all pass the fingernail test too, so I guess they're good!

I have one that doesn't pass the fingernail test that I cut off a vine killed by SVB a few weeks ago, but I don't count that one so much. I've been intending to cut it up and bake it, then puree for soup. Got a good recipe?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 8:18PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

BASIC PUMPKIN SOUP: This is a traditional cream of squash soup you can make using any pumpkin or winter squash:

Cream of Squash Soup

1 C. chopped onion
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 T. butter
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) reduced sodium chicken broth
1 t. sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground turmeric
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
2 1/2 lbs. pumpkin or squash, peeled and cubed
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 C. skim milk
2 T. cooking sherry OR 2 T. additional reduced-sodium chicken broth (If you prefer to eat vegetarian, you can substitute vegetable broth for all the chicken broth in this recipe.)

In a large saucepan coated with nonstick cooking spray, saute' the onion and celery in the butter until tender. Stir in the broth, sugar, bay leaf, salt, ginger, tumeric and cinnamon. Add the cubed squash and potatoes.

Bring soup to a boil and the reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Remove from burner and allow to cool slightly. Remove and discard bay leaf. Pour into a blender in batches and puree until cubed vegetables are smooth. Return to pan. Stir in milk and sherry (or broth). Heat until warm enough to eat, but do not boil.

GOURMET PUMPKIN SOUP: If you want a fancier pumpkin soup that has a lot of veggies in it and which is very filling and satisfying, here's a great one that we like:

This recipe is from Amy Goldman's marvelous book THE COMPLEAT SQUASH: A Passionate Grower's Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds. It is different from your standard pumpkin soup because it has a southwestern twist. You can use any winter squash or good cooking pumpkin in it.

Southwestern Winter Squash Chowder (serves 8)

2 T. olive oil
2 T. unsalted butter
3 C. coarsely chopped onions
1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 T. seeded, minced jalapeno pepper
1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. red pepper flakes, optional
8 C. chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 C. peeled, seeded and diced squash, cut into medium dice
2 C. peeled and diced potatoes, cut into medium dice
3 C. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 C. half-and-half
2 1/2 C. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 C. chopped fresh coriander, for garnish (although her recipe specifies coriander, I use cilantro)

Heat the oil and butter together in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and saute' until onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add flour, salt, and red pepper flakes and stir until blended in. Stir in the broth, diced squash and diced potatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes and squash are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the corn, half-and-half and cheddar cheese. Stir them in well and cook for a few minutes until the cheese has melted. Adjust seasonings to taste if needed. Garnish. Serve with croutons.

I'm sure some of the other folks here probably have other pumpkin or squash soup recipes to add to this thread as well.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 9:00PM
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Thanks for the recipes Dawn. I am definitely going to make the southwest winter squash chowder since I have a mess of butternut.
I do have a pumpkin story. When we lived in town we just grew tomatoes and a few peppers, so I bought my pumpkins and fall gourds. After Thanksgiving one pumpkin still looked great (it was a large one) so I just left it on the porch. It was there all winter and into the spring. It was driving my neighbor nuts. When Easter came it was still in perfect condition, so my husband and I made a face and ears, dubbed it the Easter Pumpkin, and set it in their front yard. Hated to see that one go.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 12:05PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I love the Easter Pumpkin story! One day I had a pumpkin that lasted forever like that too. Another year I put some Turk's Turban squash on a shelf in the garage and forgot about them back in that back corner. I found them 8 months later and they still looked great.

One of the things I like about the southwest chowder recipe is all the various veggies in it....I could make it right now using only veggies from our garden, except for the coriander/cilantro.

I'm going to try to post some interesting ice cream recipes for gardeners later!


    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 12:11PM
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Dawn, you are right that "fresh coriander" is, indeed, cilantro. I can't think of any other herb that is called one thing for the leaves and another for the seed, but I'm sure there are some. I'm not really crazy about cilantro, though it's growing on me. But I do love the taste of coriander. I bought a small electric coffee grinder to grind my herbs with, as I grew some coriander and also some cumin. It took me a long time to figure out that the taste I love in tamales IS cumin. Those recipes sound delicious and I'm going to paste them into my "Recipes to Try" document that I keep on the computer. When I try them and we like them, they go into my cookbook that I also keep in document form on my computer. Every now and then, when what I have printed gets outdated, I print off a new section and I'm about due for that now. I think this year, instead of pureeing all of the pumpkin, I will chunk some so I can experiment.

DH is kind of a picky eater. I made pumpkin soup once, the kind made with puree, Half and Half and a few herbs in it, and he didn't like it at all and got kind of mad at me for making that and nothing else that day. He generally doesn't like to try new things, unless someone else has made it, and then he raves on and on about how good it is and asks me why I never cooked that. That's annoying to me and it gets him into trouble later. LOL If I were smart, I'd cook a new dish and then carry it over to the neighbors and ask them to ask us to dinner and serve it! Tee Hee (oh I'm so evil)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 12:23PM
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