WSU Extension Q&A: Look at pumpkin skin before harvesting

Washington State University ExtensionSeptember 24, 2013 

Q. We grew pumpkins in our garden this year, and the fruit is just starting to turn orange. When and how should they be harvested? I want to use some for decoration and some will become Halloween jack-o-lanterns.

A. Two main things will clue you in on when you should harvest: skin color and skin hardness. A pumpkin is ready to be harvested when the fruit is uniform in color. The skin should be hard to pierce with your thumbnail, and the vines should be dry.

Leave 3 inches or more of the stem attached to the top of the pumpkin. Wash using soapy water and a 10 percent bleach solution. Try not to damage the skin. The next step is to "cure" the pumpkins by storing them at 80 to 85 degrees for about 10 days. Then store them in a cool (65 degrees), dry spot.

If cured and stored correctly, it will last about two to three months. While pumpkins can stand a light frost, they should be harvested before a hard frost (27 degrees or colder). If pumpkins are not fully orange, they may still ripen during the curing process.

Q. How can I get rid of wireworms in my potatoes?

A. Wireworms are a difficult pest to control because of their biology. Wireworm larvae migrate in the soil profile from 2 inches to several feet deep. They feed on roots or tubers, and control with common pesticides is difficult. Try using baited traps to capture wireworms in the spring or to measure hot spots in the garden to avoid planting potatoes. Cut-up pieces of potato or carrot work well as baits, or any source that emits CO2 such as moist oatmeal.

Q. I hear we are going to have a hard winter this year. How can I protect my young grape vines?

A. Any kind of cover will help. Another good solution for young vines is to bend and bury them under soil or mulch.

Q. I have found several home canning recipes that call for pears as one of the ingredients. Can I substitute Asian pears for the pears in the recipe?

A. No, Asian pears cannot be safely substituted. Asian pears are not really a true pear. Substituting an Asian pear in a recipe for a true pear would produce an unsafe product. It has a different texture and a significantly lower level of acidity. If you are going to can Asian pears, it requires lemon juice or citric acid before it can be safely canned in a boiling water bath canner.

-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.

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