It happens again and again that a pumpkin leaves the plant before the actual harvest, or that an early harvest has to take place for other reasons. How pumpkins can still be eaten by ripening is explained below.
When is a pumpkin even ripe?
Before dealing with the subsequent ripening of a pumpkin, the signs that it is ready for consumption should be briefly summarized. Because only with the knowledge of the signs of ripeness can the decision about the need for subsequent ripening be made in a targeted and reliable manner.
In general, one can say that a pumpkin is ripe when the fruit no longer has any light spots and has reached the final color everywhere. If you knock on the bowl, you should hear a dull and hollow tone from inside the pumpkin. If this is the case, the pulp shows all signs of ripeness.
If all signs of ripeness are not yet fully developed, however, it is worth ripeing the pumpkin.
Why let the pumpkin ripen?
The premature harvest and the associated, not yet reached consumption, is probably the most common reason why a pumpkin should ripen. This is especially the case when the first frost threatens. In contrast to many other autumn and winter vegetables, the different types of pumpkin are not or only moderately frost-resistant. An early harvest when they are not fully ripe can therefore be advantageous in order to avoid frost damage to the pumpkins.
However, there are other good reasons to give the plant the opportunity to ripen after the harvest:
1. Using the seeds for breeding
If new pupils are to emerge from the seeds of a pumpkin fruit in the following year, the seeds require a longer ripening period than would be necessary for the actual fruit to be consumable. In many cases, anyone who opens a pumpkin will notice that the seeds are still completely white and comparatively soft. The pulp can then be eaten, but the kernels themselves have not yet developed their full ability to germinate. For the further use of the kernels, it is therefore worthwhile to let the pumpkin ripen, as the likelihood of germination increases with the degree of ripeness.
2. Improvement of the aroma and quality of the pulp
Even if all the indicators for the ripeness and therefore harvest of the pumpkins are already available, a post-ripening process of two to three weeks is worthwhile. This is because the fruit can only develop its full aroma during subsequent ripening and thus significantly increase its quality in relation to consumption.
This is how pumpkins ripen properly
In order to be able to ripen, a pumpkin must have already reached a certain stage of development when it is harvested. The minimum requirement for a post-ripening process is a fruit that is fully developed and has already reached its final firmness. The complete discoloration of the initially light to white skin is not necessary and takes place as part of the subsequent ripening.
During post-ripening, the ripening processes taking place in the plant are supported by heat and oxygen. Therefore, after-ripening pumpkins should be stored in such a way that there is no one-sided heating or cooling and that there is complete ventilation. The necessary post-maturation processes are usually completed in a time frame of two to three weeks. The pumpkin can then be processed or stored for later use.
If the decision is made in favor of post-ripening of the pumpkins after harvest, a few aspects should be considered for successful post-ripening:
- Fruit fully grown and firm
- Weed out rotten pumpkins to prevent putrefactive bacteria from spreading to healthy fruit
- Temperature 15-20 degrees Celsius
- Low humidity
- Dry storage, for example on a bed of sand or straw
- Good ventilation of the storage location in order to remove existing moisture as much as possible and to prevent condensation and rot
- Turn pumpkins regularly to avoid pressure points and condensation and to allow even ventilation of the fruit
- Regularly check already damaged pumpkins and process or dispose of them early if the damaged areas spread
The post-ripening properties of well-known pumpkin varieties
The pumpkin varieties that we have established show significant botanical and culinary differences. Accordingly, the ability to ripen is not the same for all varieties.
Hokkaido : This variety, which can often be found in our gardens, is very resistant with a firm shell and can therefore be stored well. This good suitability for storage also has a positive effect on the post-ripening options, as there is hardly any risk of the fruit going off.
Nutmeg : The nutmeg pumpkin does not reach full ripeness until very late, so that post-ripening is not only possible here, it is often strongly recommended. Due to its good shelf life, this pumpkin can be ripened without any problems.
Squash : This variety, also known as UFO pumpkin, belongs to the summer varieties and therefore has a thinner and less firm skin than the autumn varieties. The possibility of subsequent ripening in the stored state is therefore also limited, although not completely ruled out.
Butternut : The butternut squash is one of the longest lasting types of squash. This makes it – like all other types of so-called musk pumpkins – very suitable for subsequent ripening and quality improvement.
Spaghetti Pumpkin : The special properties of this relatively young cultivar are the flesh that shreds like spaghetti. The consequence of this, however, is generally quite loose meat and a rather thin shell. The post-ripening options for the spaghetti pumpkin are therefore limited.
Yellow and red hundredweight : These well-known giant pumpkins have an average storage capacity and therefore also post-ripeness. Due to the size and weight, however, when storing for subsequent ripening, particular care must be taken to avoid spoilage due to pressure points and bruises.