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Updated: Jan 11

Are you planting pumpkins this year in your garden?


Do you have a plan for your harvest?


No?


What about after your harvest?


No?


Then you are in the right spot!


Today in this blog post I am going to share with you the 5 steps I follow to plan beyond the harvest with pumpkins! Don’t worry it is very easy but beware it might make you a little hungry looking at all of the scrumptious recipes.



One of our greatest mistakes as gardeners is not to plan for the harvest. You know how many pumpkin plants you are going to plant and you might know your estimated date to when you will need to harvest. But do you know exactly what you are going to do with all of those peas? Eat It? Freeze It? Cook It? Or do you know exactly when to pick those pumpkins at its peak?


The Five Steps to Planning Beyond the Harvest

  1. Learn to pick your harvest at its peak

  2. How to harvest your produce

  3. Research ways to Preserve your harvest

  4. Find Recipes to get your harvest from your garden to your table

  5. Add Recipes to Your Meal Planner


To learn more about why each of these steps in my 5 step process of Planning Beyond the Harvest be sure to check out this post and grab the Free Planning Beyond the Harvest Handbook designed to walk you through each step.


Let’s get to it!


Benefits of Pumpkins


Pumpkins are rich in beta carotene. Your body changes this antioxidant to vitamin A. You need vitamin A to see, ward off germs, and for your reproductive system to work the way it should. It also helps your heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs stay healthy.


Pumpkin’s rich orange color is also a sign it’s packed with potassium. This is crucial for lowering blood pressure. Pumpkin seeds are also crammed with minerals and plant sterols that raise HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” kind) and help keep blood pressure numbers down, too. Studies show that higher potassium levels can lower your risk of stroke, kidney stones, and type 2 diabetes. Another bonus: Potassium may also increase bone mineral density, boosting your bone health.


Who knew, right?



When Do I Harvest Your Pumpkins


Picking your pumpkins at their peak is your goal and that comes with knowing the perfect time to pick. Here is how:


  • Your best bet is to harvest pumpkins when they are fully mature. They will keep best this way. Do not pick pumpkins off the vine because they have reached your desired size. If you want small pumpkins, buy a small variety instead!

  • A pumpkin is ripe when its skin turns a deep, solid color (orange for most varieties).

  • When you thump the pumpkin with a finger, the rind will feel hard and it will sound hollow. Press your nail into the pumpkin’s skin; if it resists puncture, it is ripe.


How To Harvest Your Pumpkins


Once your pumpkins are ready to harvest they are going to need to be picked in just the right way. Here is how:


  • Harvest pumpkins and winter squashes on a dry day after the plants have died back and the skins are hard.

  • To slow decay, leave an inch or two of stem on pumpkins and winter squash when harvesting them.

  • To harvest the pumpkin, cut the fruit off the vine carefully with a sharp knife or pruners; do not tear. Be sure not to cut too close to the pumpkin; a liberal amount of stem (3 to 4 inches) will increase the pumpkin’s keeping time.

  • Handle pumpkins very gently or they may bruise.


How to Cure and Store Pumpkins


Pumpkins can easily be stored for later if you follow these steps:


  • Pumpkins should be cured in the sun for about 10 to 14 days to harden properly. This is a great time to display your pumpkin on the front porch! If you’re carving a pumpkin, carve no more than three days before Halloween or the pumpkin will begin to rot.

  • Store pumpkins (after curing) in a cool, dry bedroom, cellar, or root cellar—anywhere around 55ºF




How To Prepare Raw Pumpkin Puree


After your pumpkins are picked and washed it is time to get to the delicious middle.

  • Wash the pumpkin

  • Using a knife carefully cut your pumpkin in half. This may take several cuts but be sure to hold both the pumpkin and the knife firmly.

  • Once the pumpkin is opened, use a spoon to scoop out the innards and seeds. You can give these to the chickens or make your own roasted pumpkins seeds below

  • Safely cut the pumpkin to smaller pieces and then turn the cubes on their side and cut the meat from the skin.

  • Place the chunks in a food processor to make a smooth puree


That's it. The leftover skin and such can go to the chickens or compost pile. Warning if you put seed in your compost pile they may re-sprout. You can use the puree for meals, recipes, smoothies, or soups. I have our favorite recipe below!


Pumpkin Pie Milkshake


This milkshake is a great way to utilize raw pumpkin puree and still enjoy a seasonal pumpkin pie milkshake.


1 cup cubed raw pumpkin

2 frozen bananas

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons raw sugar or honey

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Add all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. This recipe is so easy. (Serves 2)


How to Cook Fresh Pumpkins


Put what if you want to cook your pumpkins to make pumpkin puree. That's easy too.


  • Wash the pumpkin

  • Using a knife carefully cut your pumpkin in half. This may take several cuts but be sure to hold both the pumpkin and the knife firmly.

  • Once the pumpkin is opened, use a spoon to scoop out the innards and seeds. You can give these to the chickens or make your own roasted pumpkins seeds below

  • Season the pumpkin inside with a little salt and place in a baking dish cut side down.

  • Put a small amount of water in the dish

  • Place the dish in a 375 degree oven and bake until the fresh is soft and easy to poke through with a fork

  • Pull the pumpkins from the oven and let cool. You don’t want to do the next step while they are still hot

  • Once cooled use a spoon and scoop the cooked flesh away and out of the skin of the pumpkin


You can use this puree in many different recipes like pumpkin pie, bread, cake and many more. This is also what you want to do before you freeze your pumpkin puree. By freezing you can preserve your pumpkin for many recipes to come. Here is one of our favorite recipes for using up frozen pumpkin puree!


Pumpkin Bars


2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar

1 can pumpkin puree or 2 cups frozen puree

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 TBSP softened butter


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix together the oil, eggs, both sugars, defrosted pumpkin puree, and vanilla. Once mixed add in all of your dry ingredients slowly. Spray a 9 by 13 baking dish with the butter so your bars will not stick to the pan. Pour your mixture into your greased pan and spread out. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or when the bars are cooked through and gold on top. While bars bake you can make a classic cream cheese frosting to frost your cooled bars with. Enjoy! (serves 10)




How To Preserve Your Pumpkins


Freezing is the easiest way to preserve your pumpkin puree as it is dangerous to pressure can any sort of puree. You can pressure-can your pumpkin in chunks. You do this by cutting up your pumpkin in the above raw puree. You just don’t puree and pressure-can the chunks. You will need to follow precise instructions so follow the instructions you would find in a canning book, like Ball Blue Book of Canning. But here is all you would need to do to freeze your cooked pumpkin puree.


  • Measure out the portions of puree you will use in many of your recipes. I like to do 2 cups

  • Place puree in a freezer bag and seal. Be sure to get out as much air as possible

  • Label with name, date and place directly in the freezer.




How To Cook Canned Pumpkins


If you pressure-can your own pumpkins you will need to drain and puree the chunks before you can use it in the following recipe but if you are purchasing canned pumpkin puree then you are ready to go!


Pumpkin Pecan Pie


For the Pecan Topping:

1/3 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, softened


For the Pumpkin Filling:

2 cups pumpkin puree (one 15-ounce can) or one quart jar of pumpkin chunks

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt


For a deciduous butter crust recipe you can look here. Follow the pie crust instructions for one crust and roll out your dough. Lay your dough in a 9 in pie pan, trim the edges and crimp. Set the pan aside. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl or in the food processor that you puree your pumpkin chunks in, add your pumpkin and all of your filling ingredients, and mix. Set aside. Mix together all of the Pecan Topping ingredients in a small bowl. Once mixed, sprinkle in the bottom of the pie crust. It will rise to the top after baking. This next part is tricky. Open the oven and pull out the oven rack part way and place the pie pan on the shelf (you will be filling the pie pan with your filling while it is in the oven) Grab your bowl of filling and spatula and pour the filling into the pan. Be sure to watch where your hands are at all times. This needs to be done because it is really hard to move a full pie pan to the oven without spilling. Slowly push the self back into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes or until a butter knife slides into the pie and comes out clean. Let cool before serving. (serves 6)




What about those pumpkin seeds. Here is a simple recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds. It does seem simple but do make sure that you watch them closely so they don’t burn.


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Clean Pumpkin Seeds

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil or melted butter

¼ tsp salt,


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up.

Place your rinsed and dried pumpkin seeds on the prepared baking sheet. Add the oil and salt. Stir until all of the seeds are coated, then spread them in an even layer across the baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the seeds are fragrant and turning golden. Season them with additional salt, to taste. If desired, season with black pepper, to taste, or stir in the pumpkin spice blend or curry powder. Enjoy. Cooled, leftover pumpkin seeds will keep well in a bag at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.



Planning for your harvest and beyond does not need to be hard. You just need a plan. The next two steps to making a plan for beyond the harvest is to find more recipes and place those recipes in your menu plan. I know making a meal plan sounds daunting but it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you want help with this step check out the Planning Beyond the Harvest Planner in my book store.


And if you have any questions comment below or contact me! I am here to help you grow!


Have a blessed day,


Crystal


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