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How can you tell when pumpkin is ready to pick?

Workers harvest pumpkins in Yolo County for their farm’s annual pumpkin patch. Now is the time to pick these Halloween favorites.
Workers harvest pumpkins in Yolo County for their farm’s annual pumpkin patch. Now is the time to pick these Halloween favorites. Sacramento Bee file

If you haven’t guessed, it’s pumpkin time again! That annual Halloween staple along with other hard-skinned winter squash are ready for harvest (or pretty close).

▪  How do you know when your pumpkin is ready? Pick your pumpkins after their vines have dried. To speed up this process (especially as Halloween approaches), stop irrigating those plants. (Without water, the pumpkin or squash will hurry up and ripen.)

▪  Look for an outer skin that’s evenly colored and hard, not soft or pliable. Although pumpkins can range from mere ounces to hundreds of pounds, the ripe one should seem full size for its variety and well formed with the stem still attached.

▪  Still not sure? Lightly thump the pumpkin or winter squash with your fingers; ripe fruit will sound hollow with a deeper tone. Try to press your fingernail into the squash’s skin. If the shell is hard enough to resist puncture, that pumpkin or squash is ready.

▪  Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut stems, keeping a little stem attached to the squash for best storage. When you lift the pumpkin up, do it from the bottom – not the stem. It can break off – and you may drop your precious pumpkin.

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