Pantry Smarts: Storing Squashes in Winter

Do you see these balls of newspaper in my pantry? They are the pumpkins and other squashes we stored over the winter (shot mid-winter) and there are still a few left. The reason I’m excited about this is that, for the first time in nearly seven years of living in Scotland, I have managed to keep pumpkins from rotting after December! I have always stored them in ‘dry’ (that’s relative in this climate!) places and even dipped them in bleach water first to kill any bacteria but still, they never made it. They made it this year because they were properly cured first.

Since pumpkins are only sold here for Halloween jack-o-lanterns, they are probably not expected to last long. This means they are probably not cured. The fact that it is generally too wet in the fall to sun cure the pumpkins added weight to my conclusion. So, I decided to cure them myself and it seemed to be the secret.

Key tip

The difference between a cured and uncured pumpkin, in case you’re wondering, is the skin. A pumpkin with a soft skin (your fingernail makes a mark when gently pressed in) is one that has not been cured!

Curing and storing squashes

To successfully over-winter squashes in wet climates, you need to cure them (a step that the farm or store will already have done if people consider squashes to be a regular part of the nation’s diet) :

  1. Bring the squash home and give them a scrub with a vegetable brush
  2. Dunk them in a weak solution of bleach water
  3. Place pumpkins next to the radiator in a hall or disused area of a room. Rotate them every day to ensure that all sides are exposed to the warmth. It was about a week for ours.
  4. Test the skin with your fingernail and move on to step 5 when it barely leaves a mark. 4.5 (optional) After the pumpkins have cured (around October in the northern hemisphere), use them as decorations on coffee tables and bookshelves until December.
  5. Wrap pumpkins in newspapers and tuck away in a dry, dark, cool place until you want to eat them.


  1. Does cured pumpkin make good pie? Does this system of curing work for other squashes, acorn and spaghetti squash are the two that usually make it to my plate?

  2. Hi Nibby,

    Yes, cured pumpkin is fine for pie. In the US, if you buy pumpkins in supermarkets and large farms, the pies are generally cured on the farm already. So you’ll probably have had pie made with cured pumpkins and not known it.

    This home curing process, however, is important for storage if you’re growing your own (or buying pumpkins in Scotland, for instance) winter squashes. It can work on all winter squashes, but not zucchini or other summer squashes as their skin and moisture content is different, although it *may* work well for marrows (aka, overgrown zucchini types).

    If you get reliable dry sunny days in the fall after harvest, it can’t hurt to try sun curing your squashes in the traditional way: on a tarp, with space in between them. The prevailing wisdom on this is about 7-10 days, using the fingernail check to determine when they’re fully cured.

    Good luck!

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