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Ripening Green Pumpkins

A case of the "ugly duckling"

For most of us, Jack Frost will pay a visit to our pumpkin patch sometime in October. It's inevitable, and he usually arrives sooner than we wish. If we have worked hard and are lucky, we will have plenty of bright, orange pumpkins for decorating our homes and front porches. Sometimes however, our pumpkins are not quite ripe, perhaps even green, when Jack Frost stops by.

Jack Frost is not the only reason we get green pumpkins. Sometimes, the plant dies off, due to insect or disease problems, before the pumpkins ripen. And, sometimes we slip up and accidentally break a vine.

Never fear, all is not lost! Partially ripe, and even green pumpkins, can ripen completely with a little help from you. The ripening process requires sunlight, warmth and time. Hopefully, you will have enough of all three, prior to Halloween.

Here's how you can help turn your pumpkins orange:

Extending the season- If your pumpkins are still on the vine, they are best left there. Cut away any leaves that may block the sun, however small. In the waning hours of daylight, the fruit can use every ray of sunshine it can get. If Jack Frost is about to stop by, get some large plastic sheeting. Cover the fruit and the vine. Anchor the plastic with bricks or rocks, to keep the wind from blowing it off. If the next day is going to be very cold, you can leave it on all day. If not, remove it.

Ripening out of the patch- As previously mentioned, green and partially orange pumpkins ripen up with sunlight, warmth, and time. Just follow these steps:

  1. Remove the pumpkins from the patch and wash off the dirt.
  2. Place your pumpkins on a warm, sunny deck or patio.
  3. They can also be brought inside. If you bring them indoors, make sure there is good air circulation to minimize the chances of mold and rotting.
  4. Turn the greenest side of the pumpkin towards the sun.
  5. Rotate the pumpkin from time to time to allow the sun to reach the greener parts of the pumpkin.
  6. If left outdoors, bring them in at night to keep the pumpkins' temperature warmer.

Success is not guaranteed. A very green pumpkin is less likely to ripen and turn orange in whatever time you have remaining until Halloween. It may take several weeks. But, it usually works.

I was born to shine. If I do not completely ripen, please don't throw me away. Even though I am green, you can still carve me into a beautiful Jack O'Lantern. I will shine just as bright on Halloween night. And, in the darkness, no one will know what color I am. Thanks, Jack.

More on Pumpkins

Also see: How to Ripen Fruits and Vegetables


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