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Harvest Time

With the onset of cooler temperatures and the excitement levels rising of our children eager to begin the holiday season, we want to ensure that your pumpkin and potato crops are harvested and stored properly so that there’s plenty of each to continue into Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.  Pumpkins, winter squash, and gourds are so ubiquitous for a reason; they have multiple uses, beginning with their decorative qualities.  Stack them on the sides of the stairs leading to the front door, and you are instantly in the mood for autumn. 

PumpkinsThe time to harvest your pumpkins is once they have turned a uniform orange, and the vines have dried, and the rinds are hard enough that poking with your fingernail will not crack the surface.  Cut the stems, do not just tear them off, leaving 2 inches of stem.  It is okay to display pumpkins and squash indoors that you intend to cook shortly.  A few tips to keep both pumpkins and table tops safe; placing a pumpkin directly on a wooden table top or on a carpet will soften the blossom end and weep pumpkin juice.  The moisture in the shell damages wooden surfaces.  However, hard non-porous surfaces can cause your pumpkin to age prematurely.  The way to avoid these problems is to place a cloth, or a circle of cardboard between your pumpkin and the surface.

Wonderfully versatile, nearly every part of the pumpkin can be eaten.  The cooked pulp is fabulous in pies, cookies, breads, soups, main dishes...there is hardly an end to inventive ways to incorporate it into your repertoire. And don’t forget how tasty the pumpkin seeds can be!  Separate the seeds from the pulp by washing well, then spread them on a cookie sheet and lightly salt.  Toast them for three or four minutes at 375 degrees, stir, and toast another two or three minutes until they’re evenly golden.  Let cool, and you have a delicious and nutritious treat.

When you harvest your gourds, drill a small hole at each end for quicker drying.  Cure them in a dry, well-ventilated area at room temperature for two weeks, and then store the cured squash at 50 to 60 degrees in a dry area, checking weekly for mold.  If you see any, moisten a paper towel with vinegar and wipe it off.  Your squash should keep for up to 6 months.

Harvest your potatoes now, taking care to not expose them to sunlight.  With full-size potatoes, wait until the tops of the plants dry and turn brown.  Dig from the outside perimeter, moving in carefully in order to avoid slicing into the potatoes.  Keep them at 75 to 85 degrees for one week, then store them in humid conditions at 50 to 60 degrees; they will keep for 6 to 15 weeks.  If you refrigerate them at 36 to 40 degrees, the starch will turn into sugar, thus giving them an oddly sweet taste.

Sweet potatoes should be harvested as soon as the vines yellow, keeping in mind that the longer they are left in the ground, the more vitamins they’ll have.  When harvesting, be careful to not nick the tubers as this will encourage spoilage; use a spading fork to dig them up.  Air dry for a day, then keep them in a high-humidity (90 to 95%) environment at 85 to 90 degrees for one to two weeks, and then store them at 55 to 60 degrees in high humidity.  The flavor will enhance during storage, ironically as part of the starch turns into sugar.  When properly cured, sweet potatoes will last for several months.

The recipes that have been handed down in your family from generation to generation will be better than ever when your home-grown vegetables are used.  


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