Use care with pumpkins to prevent damage to the fruit

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Happy fall! The Autumanl Equinox—the moment when the sun appears to cross the celestial equator—occurred this past Saturday, Sept. 22.

The change in the seasons is the beginning of many things to come:  crop harvest, cooler temperatures, layers of clothing, shorter days, rich fall colors, and frost.

During the Monday morning hours, our area was under a frost advisory.  A frost advisory indicates that frost is likely, and sensitive plants left outdoors could be damaged.  According to the local Kentucky Mesonet station, temperatures dipped to 37 degrees.

Now is the time of the year to be mindful of the temperatures and protect sensitive plants.

Keeping with the autumn theme, pumpkins are a staple in fall decorating. Whether you grow or buy pumpkins, it is important to realize that careful harvesting and handling will help them last throughout the season.

For growers, pumpkins should be harvested as soon as they are ripe and show a good orange color.  Although ripe pumpkins can be left in the field for a period of time and tolerate light frost, heavy frost can cause damage.

Do not try to harvest when the fruit and vines are wet since this can lead to the development of fruit rot. The best time to harvest is during sunny, dry weather.

Cut vines with a pair of shears and leave four to five inches of stem, or handle, attached to the pumpkin to further reduce the chance for rot. Any pumpkins that display signs of rot should be left in the field since these will not store for very long.

Damaged pumpkins are much more likely to rot, so handle each fruit carefully to avoid bruising or puncturing the rind.

Be sure to store pumpkins in a cool and dry location.

To prolong the life of the fruit, avoid exposure to direct sunlight as much as possible.  Also, store pumpkins in a single layer to promote better air movement, which creates a less than favorable environment for bacteria and fungi.

As a consumer, avoid buying pumpkins that show any signs of rot.  Steer clear of fruit that do not have handles or have handles in poor condition or are rotting.

Handle pumpkins with care on the way home and store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

Keep in mind that once a pumpkin is carved, its days are numbered.  After cutting, exposed surfaces become colonized with fungi and bacteria. 

The warmer the weather after a pumpkin is carved, the quicker bacteria and fungi will break down the fruit.

For more information about harvesting and handling pumpkins, contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service.

Dates of Interest

Oct. 2: Master Stocker Program, session two of eight, 6:30 p.m., Boone County Extension Office.

Oct. 3:Carroll County Agricultural Development Council Meeting, 7 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.


Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.