Here are some tips on what you should and should not do to protect, pick and enjoy these late-season gifts from the garden as long as possible.
How long should you leave pumpkins and squash in the garden?
Pumpkins, squash and gourds can generally be left in the garden as long as the ground stays dry and until there is a freeze.
Even if a light frost kills the leaves, pumpkins and squash can be left outdoors. While they will tolerate a light frost, it's still best to cover them with a cloth blanket (not plastic) when frost is predicted.
Temps in the 28 degree range and lower will destroy the outside skin and ruin the tissue and the quality of the flesh will go downhill from there. So make sure all the pumpkins and squash are picked prior to a hard freeze.
If pumpkins are still green or partly green with some orange, it's best to pick them before frost can damage the skin.
If that happens, pumpkins will stop turning color. Once picked, put the pumpkin in a cool, dry place where it won't freeze so it can complete the process of turning color.
When you pick the pumpkin or squash:
• Cut the stem with a knife and try to keep the stem in tact when you move the pumpkin. A damaged stem can cause the pumpkin to rot and that means less time to enjoy it for fall décor.
• If it is wet when picked, dry the pumpkin and clean off mud as moisture can lead to mold.
• Keep pumpkins and squash in a cool, dry place where they can last quite well for several weeks.
Save some seeds for a new garden adventure:
When you cut your pumpkin, save some seeds to plant next year. Remove all the pulp from the seeds and allow them to dry, and then keep the seeds in a cool, dry place in a jar or plastic bag. Plant them next year to see what surprising shape or color you might have.
If pumpkins have grown in the same garden with zucchini or other squash, they will likely cross-pollinate and the seeds will be a hybrid. Next year's fruit may look quite different than its 2010 original!
If you've never cooked a pumpkin:
Many gardeners grow pumpkins for the sheer fun of it and to see how big a pumpkin they can grow for a jack-o-lanterns and seasonal décor.
This year, before you pitch those smaller pumpkins, take a more sustainable approach and try roasting one for a pie that's 100% home-grown and home-made. Here's what you need to know.
• For cooking and eating, smaller "pie pumpkins" are tastier than large pumpkins. Large pumpkins make better jack-o-lanterns, than pies.
• Cut off the top and stem and slice the pumpkin into wedges and then into smaller pieces.
• Remove the seeds, but leave the peel on.
• Roast the pumpkin slices on a cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for about 2 hours.
• After roasting, remove the peel and process the meat in a food processor. The pumpkin is ready to use for your favorite pumpkin pie or other recipe.
Information courtesy Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, sponsors of the 9News Water Wise Garden and the 2010 9News Kitchen Garden. To receive timely landscape info sent free each week to your email, go to www.alcc.com and click on Tip of the Week to subscribe.
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