Pumpkins are classic autumn seasonal decor. They’re lovely on the front porch, along the front walk, or even in a fall centerpiece. But how long do pumpkins last?
Whole pumpkins generally last about 2-3 months in cool/dry conditions, although there are heirloom types that can last up to one year in storage! At room temperature, most pumpkins will last only about a month.
Pumpkins that have been carved have a much shorter shelf life. A carved Jack-o-Lantern on a chilly front porch usually lasts between 1-2 weeks, while a carved pumpkin at room temperature may only last a few days.
There are a few considerations that go into the length of time pumpkins last. Read on to learn all about their post-harvest lifespan and ways to keep them for longer!
Pumpkin Harvest Season
Pumpkin harvest generally occurs in late September to early October. Pumpkins are grown only during the warmer months and are harvested before the first frost. Most growers bring in their pumpkins before outdoor overnight temperatures drop below 40°F (5°C).
The outer rind of a pumpkin will start to harden on the vine, especially during a warm autumn. The pumpkin is sometimes then kept at around room temperature for several weeks to allow the skin to harden further. This process is called “curing”. After curing, a pumpkin can be placed into cool, dry storage or used as decor in a seasonal autumn display.
Choose Healthy, Undamaged Individual Pumpkins
The first consideration in post-harvest lifespan is to choose the healthiest individual pumpkins. Healthy pumpkins will store much, much longer than diseased or damaged fruits.
For the longest lifespan, choose pumpkins that are fully grown/mature, firm, disease-free, undamaged, and free from bruising. Lopsided pumpkins are normal/fine, but expect a long life from pumpkins with soft spots or blemishes.
Take extra care not to damage the pumpkins while handling them. If you’re harvesting it yourself from your garden or a pumpkin patch, leave about 3″ of stem on the pumpkin. You’ll want to wear gloves if touching the pumpkin stem/vine (its prickly). Brush any dirt off the pumpkin using the gloves.
“Avoid cutting and bruising the pumpkins when handling them. Fruits that are not fully mature or that have been injured or subjected to heavy frost do not keep.”Pumpkins and More: Growing Pumpkins, University of Illinois Extension
Avoid holding the pumpkin by the stem. Damaged pumpkins have a much shorter shelf life than intact pumpkins that still have their stems. If transporting the pumpkin (car, truck, wheelbarrow) gently secure it so it doesn’t roll around during transport.
Cure The Pumpkin’s Peel for Longest Lifespan
For the longest shelf life, pumpkins are sometimes “cured” for storage. Curing is when pumpkins are held at a warm temperature for 10-20 days so that the rind can heal and harden further. While curing isn’t strictly necessary, it may help prolong the fruit shelf life (especially for slightly immature pumpkins).
Harvested pumpkins are placed in a warm, dry, airy location to harden up their peel/skin. Pumpkins cure best around 80°-85°F (25°-30°C), but lower temperatures will do as long as there is some heat, good air circulation, and little wetness. Once cured, the outside peel of the pumpkin should be hard enough that your fingernail doesn’t easily dent or puncture it.
Choose “Good Keeper” Varieties
Some varieties of pumpkin last much longer than other varieties. If you’re growing your own pumpkins or choosing from a specialty retailer, look for a variety that is known as a “good keeper” or “stores for months”.
These are generally old-fashioned cooking pumpkins that were grown to be stored through the winter for food. They tend to have thicker skins than pumpkins that are easily carved into Jack-O-Lanterns.
Estimated Maximum Pumpkin Storage Shelf Life
Here is a list of the estimated maximum storage shelf life for some specific pumpkin varieties:
- Connecticut Field Pumpkin: 2-3 Months
- Howden Commercial Pumpkin: 2-3 Months
- New England Sugar Pie Pumpkin: 2-3 Months
- Dickinson Culinary Pumpkin: 5 Months
- Jaune Gros de Paris: 5 Months
- Winter Sweet Kabocha Squash: 5 Months
- Long Island Cheese Pumpkin: 6 Months
- Rouge Vif d’Etampes Pumpkin (Red Cinderella): 6 Months
- Black Futsu Squash: 6 Months
- Moranga Pink Pumpkins: 6 Months
- Sweet Meat Squash: 6 Months
- Queensland Blue: 6 Months
- Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin: 6 Months
- Kogigu Japanese Pumpkin: 8 Months
- Baby Boo Mini Pumpkin: 9 Months
- Musquee de Provence: 9 Months
- Jarrahdale Pumpkin: 12 Months
- Marina d’Chioggia Pumpkin: 12 Months
- Traimble Pumpkin: 12 Months
- Seminole Pumpkin: 12 Months
Pumpkins should be healthy, unblemished, and stored in optimal conditions to reach estimated maximum shelf life storage duration.
“All pumpkins and hard-shelled winter squash may be stored at the end of the growing season for use well into the new year. For best results, store sound, well-cured fruit at 50 to 55°F in a 50 to 70% relative humidity. Length of storage life varies according to variety and type of squash or pumpkin.”Storing Pumpkin and Winter Squash at Home, by N.S. Mansour, Oregon State University Extension
Store in a Cool, Dry Place
Store pumpkins in a cool, dry, breezy location. Avoid hot and humid storage spots, as well as overly damp and cold basements and cellars. Moisture and stale air causes accelerated decay, as does exposure to hot temperatures and very cold temperatures.
A pumpkin left at room temperature will last 1-3 months, depending on the type of pumpkin and the humidity of the room. Pumpkins last longer when the storage area is kept at a cool (but not cold) temperature. For the longest-lasting pumpkins, store them indoors where the temperature consistently remains between 50°-55°F (10°-13°C).
Pumpkins should not be stored at temperatures below 45°F (7.5°C), as these cold temperatures can cause softening (leading to rot). Do not store whole pumpkins in the refrigerator. Whole or carved pumpkins that have accidentally frozen will begin to rot as soon as they thaw.
Store pumpkins on a dry wooden board to keep them up off the floor. They can also be stored on plywood, corrugated cardboard, straw, or a breathable mat. Pumpkins should also be stored away from apples/pears, as they can cause early pumpkin rot. Tree fruits are generally better stored at cooler temperatures than pumpkins anyways.
Check Stored Pumpkins Regularly
Check pumpkins often for soft spots or other signs of rotting. Look for mold, mildew, and be on the lookout for creepy crawlers. Remove any pumpkins that show signs of deterioration to protect those that remain in storage.
When To Carve Pumpkins For Halloween
To have carved pumpkins for Halloween, it’s best to carve them within one week of Halloween night. In hot climates, it may make more sense to wait until a day or two before halloween to carve a pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern.
There are, however, all manner of concoctions suggested online to extend the life of a carved pumpkin. Some carvers have used antibacterial and antifungal cleaning solutions to slow decay, and may employ petroleum products like floor wax and automotive lubricants. If you do choose to try and preserve your carved pumpkin in this manner, be sure to closely follow the instructions from a trustworthy source and take the necessary precautions when working with chemicals.
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