Winter squashes keep best if stored in a cool, dry, dark spot. Pumpkins also store well for months at a time. The other vine-crops must be preserved, pickled, canned or frozen if you want them to last, although some honeydew melons and large zucchinis will keep for awhile.
Winter squashes and pumpkins must be cured to dry and harden their shells completely before being put into storage. Select only the best specimens for winter keeping. Any bumps, bruises, broken stems or rotting will worsen and spread to other vegetables, so eat the less-than-perfect ones first. Try to air out the vegetables you'll be storing in a warm, well-ventilated place at a temperature of 75° F to 85° F for a week or two. It's usually too cool at harvest time to achieve the perfect temperature, but you can group the vegetables near your furnace, wood stove or on a sunny back porch where they can be sufficiently cured to toughen their skin.
You can also cure your winter squashes right in the root cellar, by running a small, portable fan directly on them round the clock for a week or so. Although the root cellar may be quite cool, the circulating air from the fan does the curing just fine.
After curing, pile the vegetables two or three deep in the driest part of your root cellar -- the shelves located halfway between the floor and ceiling are usually the best spot. While root cellars are generally dry, most regular cellars are too damp for storing vine crops. They keep best in a cool place (45? F to 55? F) with low humidity. If you don't have a root cellar, any cool, dry, dark spot is fine -- try a spare room, closet floor, attic floor, or even a large, cool kitchen cupboard.
Wherever you store your vegetables, check them regularly and remove any that are getting soft or look as if they're starting to rot. It's only natural that some will keep better than others.
By the time your winter squash gets soft spots, you'll probably have eaten enough frozen summer vegetables that there's room in the freezer for some new additions. If a squash starts to soften, peel it, remove the seeds and the soft spots. Then cut the squash into chunks, steam or boil them, and freeze the cooked squash in containers.
Photography by National Gardening Association
|1. Harvesting Vining Crops|
|2. Ripening Vine Crops|
|3. Making Pumpkins Last ← you're on this article right now|
|4. Into the Kitchen: Squash and Melons|
|5. Pickling Cucumbers|