[The Brazil Times nameplate] Fair ~ 53°F  
High: 58°F ~ Low: 43°F
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How to care for pumpkins

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It is that time of year where you drive down the road and see little orange objects on front porches, near flowerbeds and around businesses.

Those orange objects can be left alone, painted or carved, but all provide a sign of the season.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I am talking about the wondrous pumpkins that many people cherish and often take a day to pick out when they decide to go to a pumpkin patch.

Pumpkins can range in size, including less than a pound all the way up to 100 pounds. However, most individuals choose to purchase pumpkins that are in the 5-10 pound range that their child can carry.

A few of the miniature varieties of pumpkins include Munchkin, Wee-B-Little, and Baby Pam.

Small Sugar, Casper and Mystic Plus are examples of varieties that weight between 5-10 pounds. If you are looking for a pumpkin that weighs more than 25 pounds, try looking for either a Gold Rush, Autumn Gold, Atlantic Giant or Prize Winner pumpkin.

Often, the pumpkins we purchase at stores will have already been through the cleaning and curing process. However, if you visit a pumpkin patch, you might want to pay attention to the following information about harvesting and selecting, cleaning and curing pumpkins.

Try to find one that has a hard shell that can't be punctured by a fingernail. Additionally, try to find one that has a firm, bright green stem. Once you have your pumpkin selected and are transporting it home, be sure to place soft material around it to prevent it from rolling and getting damaged.

The next step after harvesting and selecting your pumpkin is cleaning. By doing this step, you will potentially keep the pumpkin from rotting early by removing surface bacteria and fungal spores. In order to clean your pumpkin, use a diluted bleach solution to wipe down or wash the outside of the pumpkin.

The final step, curing, involves placing your pumpkin in an area that is 80-85 degrees (Fahrenheit) and with 80-85 percent relative humidity for approximately 10 days. This process will cause the pumpkin skin to harden and potentially heal any small wounds that it might have. After the pumpkin has been cured, you should still try to keep it in a dry location with temperatures in the 50s and 60s if possible.

Once you have completed the three-step process with your pumpkin, you can spend some time decorating it. There are many ways you can decorate it, including painting, stickers and carving.

You can look online and through magazines for various ideas. Other uses for pumpkins, besides decorating, are in pumpkin pies and seed collecting. If you decide to collect the seeds, then first soak the seeds for 24 hours in water. Then clean them off and allow them to dry. Store them throughout the year in a clean, air-tight container in a cool, dry place.

If you don't want to use the seeds to grow your own pumpkins next year, you can use them to feed cardinals and other birds along with squirrels throughout the winter months.

It is always nice to look back on your childhood and remember the fun you had with your family and friends throughout the fall months as you visited pumpkin patches and spent time decorating your house with your pumpkins.

As you do this event this year with your family and friends, remember to pass on the knowledge you gained on how to harvest and select, clean and cure your pumpkin properly.

If you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu.

Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Oct. 16 -- 66th IBEP Bull Sale and Springville Feeder Auction Association's Bred Heifer Sale, 2 p.m.,

* Oct. 21 -- IDNR Woodland Owner Workshop, 6-8 p.m. RSVP by calling 1-765-653-9785 by Oct. 14, and

* Oct. 23 -- Energy Conservation Expo, Wabash Valley Fairgrounds, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.