The Q&A Archives: Preserving Pumpkins And Gourds

Question: It there a way to coat/oil or protect pumkins (Baby Boo and Jack Be Little and small gourds) for arrangements, wreaths and year after year keeping?
I see the ones in stores that are dried and hard. Do you microwave, stove dry or put verathan over them?

Answer: Waxing is a way to keep many fruits and vegetables from drying and shriveling during their long trek from farm to kitchen. Several different waxes are used, some animal (beeswax; lac-resin, a food-grade shellac extracted from an East Indian insect), some vegetable (carnauba wax, from the fronds of the Brazilian wax palm; candelilla wax, the resinous exudate of a Latin American shrub) and some mineral (paraffin). Usually applied as a thin spray, these waxes, all of which must have FDA approval, reduce moisture loss in fruits and vegetables by nearly half. But that's not all. Artificial colors and fungicides may be added to the wax spray. Or the fruits and vegetables may be treated with fungicides before they're sprayed (it's a way to prolong shelf life and prevent the growth of molds. Either way, the wax seals in the fungicides.

These preservatives are generally only available to packing houses, so I'm not sure where you'd be able to find these food grade waxes. If you don't intend to consume the squash and gourds you want to preserve, a thin coat of shellac will achieve the same results. Don't try to dry the fruits in the microwave or oven - they may begin to cook, after which they'll rot. Keep them in a cool area until the stems have completely shrivelled, then coat them with varnish. They should keep several months when treated in this manner.

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