Good Quality Pumpkins This Year

Jerry Brust, IPM Vegetable Specialist, University of Maryland;

My unscientific survey of grocery stores, big-box stores, and vegetable markets point to the fact that it was overall a good season for quality pumpkins. Pumpkins may not be as big on average and some growers may be disappointed by their overall yield (both probably due to insufficient rainfall in July and August) compared with past years, but the quality is certainly there. Good color and strong dark green handles (Fig. 1) indicate that there was not as much foliar disease as we have had in the past, most notably from powdery mildew and downy mildew. These two diseases were still present but not at very significant levels. Virus symptoms in the pumpkin fields I visited also were very low this year. Normally I’d expect to see 25-35% of a field infected with virus by early September, but instead I saw very little. One thing I am seeing that is a bit odd is that pumpkins that have turned orange for a while have not hardened-off (matured or ripened) as of yet, as I normally see by mid-September in many fields. Not sure if it is because of the drought that we had that has slowed the maturation of the pumpkins or something else. Until the outer rind of a pumpkin hardens-off (push your thumb-nail into the skin of the pumpkin if it dents slightly but does not puncture it is hardened-off) they are more susceptible to fruit rot in a field. Making sure that the pumpkins are not in contact with the soil helps with the problem. If they can be harvested and stored in a covered facility, but not in a cooler, until they harden-off they will last much longer in store bins and on front porches.


Figure 1. High quality pumpkins in 2015 — good color, little rotting and strong green handles.