Pumpkins and winter squash are still locally available

Locally grown winter squash and pumpkins are still available at many farm stands in Michigan. They are healthy foods that can be stored for many weeks or preserved for later use.

Halloween is over but not the desire for locally-grown pumpkins and squash. Many farmers markets and stands in Michigan are still offering pumpkins and some have now added evergreens for holiday decoration and Christmas trees. Not only are pumpkins, gourds and squashes popular for fall decorating, they are all tasty and can be used in a wide variety of savory dishes.

Gourds and Pumpkins

Photo credit: Sxc.hu

Extending the shelf life of pumpkins and winter squash depends entirely on their maturity at harvest, curing and storage practices. The fruit is still alive after harvest and respiration continues even in storage. When buying, choose uniformly-colored fruits that have a dull looking surface. Pumpkins should still have some of their stem attached. Avoid fruit with nicks, cuts and bruises as these provide entrance to organisms that can cause them to rot prematurely.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you store your pumpkins and squash in a cool, dry and well-ventilated location. Do not store near other fruits such as apples because the ethylene gas they produce will shorten storage shelf life of your squash and pumpkins. Place them on a shelf or rack where they are not touching each other at temperatures between 50 & 55 degrees Fahrenheit. A cool, well-ventilated basement or enclosed porch may work well for this.

Regularly check your stored pumpkins and winter squash and discard any decayed fruit. Most pumpkins and squash will remain in good condition for 2-3 months, some even longer. Acorn squash will have the shortest shelf life of about 1-2 months, butternut and pumpkins 2-3 months, Hubbard and turban type butter cup squashes about 3-6 months and sweet meat squash 4-6 months. Winter squashes and pumpkins can be cooked and pressure canned or frozen for longer preservation if necessary.