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Pumpkins come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. A distinction is made between ornamental and edible pumpkins. The most well-known of them is the Hokkaido pumpkin, which is used both as an ornamental pumpkin and as an edible pumpkin, especially on Halloween. Unfortunately, at some point they start to get moldy and have to be disposed of. However, there is one or the other or method to make them durable for a short or longer term. The type of preservation depends on the type of pumpkin.

ornamental gourds


Harvest at the right time

In order to preserve ornamental gourds, they must first be harvested at the right time. You can recognize a ripe pumpkin by the fact that the skin is hard and the stalk is woody. The pressure test can provide information about the degree of maturity. As soon as the skin no longer yields to pressure, it is ready to be harvested. The firmer and thicker the skin of a pumpkin, the more suitable it is for preservation. As a rule, they should be harvested as late as possible, but before the first frost. Best on a sunny day around noon.

At least as important is the fact that you should only use fresh and completely intact pumpkins. Copies showing dents, soft spots, tears or holes are not suitable for preservation. Germs can penetrate such damaged areas, which promotes decay and significantly reduces durability. Smaller and thin-skinned ornamental gourds can usually only be preserved for a short time.


Preserve ornamental gourds

Pumpkins are not only extremely decorative for Halloween. Actually, they should not be missing in any autumn decoration. However, they don't last forever, which is the nature of things when it comes to organic matter in contact with water. Because moisture in particular is responsible for the rapid decay. If you want to counteract this and extend the shelf life of these pretty fruits, there are different ways of preserving them. However, successful preservation requires a few basic things and starts with the right harvest time.

Short-term preservation

For a short-term preservation, the use of hairspray and/or clear lacquer is recommended. The moisture is locked in, the pumpkin stays crunchy a little longer and does not lose its size. The main thing is to spray the inside of the pumpkin over and over again. This means that the pumpkin must first be hollowed out. Then it can be sprayed with hairspray or varnish. However, this type of preservation does not protect against mold growth. After this treatment, they have a longer shelf life of between 7 and 12 days.

Tip: If you rub the pumpkins with beeswax or floor wax on the outside, they also get a nice shine.

Preserve carved works

When talking about carved pumpkins, everyone immediately thinks of the typical orange Halloween pumpkin. With a few small tools, its durability can be significantly extended. But before you can start preserving it, the shell must be carefully cleaned. Then the lid can be cut off and the pulp can be completely removed or the pumpkin can be hollowed out. Only clean and sharp cutting tools should be used for cutting. Care must be taken to avoid damaging the shell, which could later be an entry point for bacteria.

  • After scooping out, soak entire pumpkin in a bleach solution
  • Prepare a solution of 5 ml of bleach and 4 liters of water
  • soak for at least an hour
  • Squash is meant to absorb water, which makes it firmer and plumper
  • this protects it from drying out for longer
  • Treatment with bleach, superficially kills most microorganisms
  • it delays the process of decay
  • then dry the fruit body well both inside and outside
  • residual moisture inside can accelerate the rotting process
  • Next, spray the squash inside and out with a stronger bleach solution
  • Now make the solution from 15 ml of bleach and 1 liter of water
  • then dry the pumpkin well inside and outside with a clean cloth
  • Allow to air dry for at least 20 minutes
  • do not leave to dry for more than an hour

Now the pumpkin, including the cut areas, is rubbed with Vaseline. However, you should only do this if you have previously treated it with bleach. Otherwise, the vaseline traps the microorganisms, which in turn accelerates the rotting process. Vegetable oils can also be used as an alternative to Vaseline. For visual reasons, excess Vaseline should then be removed with a clean cloth. Now it's a matter of keeping or storing the pumpkin in a cool and damp place without direct sunlight.

Tip: Instead of bleach, you can use a commercial pumpkin protectant, which is usually available at hardware stores or anywhere pumpkins can be purchased.


Dry whole ornamental gourds

While carved gourds need moisture for preservation, whole ornamental gourds need to be dried. It is particularly important that the pumpkins dry slowly. Drying in the oven or on the heater is not recommended. Here the water would be withdrawn from the pumpkins too quickly, causing them to shrink. That's why it's best to air dry them.

On the field

With this method, you simply leave the ripe pumpkins out in the field to dry on the shoots of the plants. When the pumpkin plant slowly withers with the onset of cold temperatures, the fruit detaches from the tendril and begins to dry up. It is best to bed them early on on a dry mat of straw to prevent them from lying on the wet soil, which in turn promotes rot. From time to time, the level of dryness can be checked by lifting the fruit, tapping it, or shaking it.

A dry pumpkin is much lighter, it has lost some weight. A hollow sound should be heard during the knock test, indicating full maturity. If you shake a dry pumpkin, you can usually hear the rattling of the seeds. Once the pumpkins are completely dry, they can be collected and stored accordingly. For storage, only intact fruit should be used and damaged should be disposed of.

In a storage room

If you don't want to leave the pumpkins to dry in the field, you can cut them off the vines once they are fully ripe and the leaves of the pumpkin plant have turned brown. A small stalk of at least 3 cm in length should always remain on the pumpkin. The cut point on the stem allows the pumpkin to evaporate water more quickly, which speeds up the drying process somewhat.

  • After harvesting, clean the pumpkins with lukewarm soapy water
  • then dry well
  • To protect against fungi and bacteria, moisten the outside of the pumpkin with rubbing alcohol
  • it should never be too damp or even wet afterwards
  • too much moisture would accumulate back in the fruit
  • the alcohol could damage the fruit body
  • lay out the pumpkins to dry
  • Place them next to each other on a wooden shelf with sufficient distance between them
  • Fruit should be well ventilated from all sides at all times

The storage place should be in a warm and dark room. It is advisable to turn the pumpkins once every two weeks so that they can dry evenly all over. Depending on the size of the fruit, it can take between six months and a year for the pumpkins to be completely dry. The dried fruit can then be coated with a layer of wax (wax paste) to seal the surface and provide additional protection against bacteria.

Tip: If the number of pumpkins to be dried is rather small, you can also dry them hanging on the stems. You simply tie a thicker ribbon around the stems and hang them up to dry.



The type of preservation or preservation depends on the type of pumpkin and what you want to preserve it for. They can be kept in the fridge for a short time or frozen for longer storage. But not every pumpkin is suitable for consumption. There are pumpkins that are grown purely for ornamental or decorative purposes and are also poisonous. In contrast to edible pumpkins, which taste aromatic to sweet, ornamental pumpkins contain bitter substances (cucurbitacin). It is best to buy squash directly from the producer so that you can eat it without worry and preserve it accordingly.


Freezing is the easiest way to preserve pumpkins for later consumption, both raw and cooked. Only fully ripe pumpkins and varieties of good quality should be used. Pumpkin varieties with dry or very fibrous flesh are less suitable. For example, the Hokkaido is not only good for carving a Halloween grimace, but also excellent for freezing. First, the fruits are cleaned under running water. Soap should not be used to clean gourds intended for consumption. Coarse dirt can be easily removed with a vegetable brush.


If a Hokkaido is to be frozen raw, it does not have to be peeled, just freed from its core. All other edible squashes must be peeled, seeded and stems removed. They are then cut into bite-sized pieces, filled into freezer bags in portions and frozen.


In addition to the raw version, the fruits can also first be boiled into a mush and then frozen. To do this, put the finely chopped pulp in a pot and steam it for about 20 minutes. As soon as it has a soft consistency, pour off the water and mash the whole thing with a hand blender. Then let the mush cool down and fill it in a suitable container for freezing. The mush can be frozen for several months.

Tip: The cores should not be thrown away under any circumstances. Roasted they are a real delicacy and also very healthy.

To store

Store squash properly

Freshly harvested squash such as the Hokkaido, the nutmeg or the butternut can be stored for several weeks, sometimes even months if stored correctly. This requires optimal conditions during storage. This should be done in an airy, dry and cool place with temperatures around 12 degrees, for example in a frost-free garage or a well-ventilated, unheated basement. Pressure points should be avoided, they quickly become soft and begin to rot. Fruit that has already been cut can be stored in the refrigerator for about two days.

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