How do you prevent a pumpkin from rotting? Expert advice
The leaves are changing, the weather is getting colder and the nights are approaching, which can only mean one thing; Halloween is fast approaching. For us home decoration haunting, it also means Halloween decorations. Forget ghosts or ghouls, because there’s a more traditional item (in vegetable form) that’s synonymous with this time of year, and that’s the pumpkin.
Whether it’s pumpkin picking, pumpkin carving, or pumpkin pie (or even a pumpkin spice latte), there’s no escaping this iconic winter vegetable. Even if you’re not a member of the Jack-o-lantern tribe, a pumpkin makes a lovely decorative addition to your home, inside and out. And, not only are they inexpensive, but they are also durable.
Still, anyone who’s ever decorated with a pumpkin knows how susceptible it is to rotting (it’s a vegetable, after all). Since our fall celebrations continue through Thanksgiving, you may be wondering how to make a pumpkin last, especially if you have young children who hate to see their carved masterpiece rot on the porch.
Although we can’t completely prevent it, there are several things we can do to prevent a pumpkin from rotting too quickly. So, with the help of some expert gardening tips, we take a look at them.
Lilith is an expert at keeping up with news and trends in the world of interior design. She is committed to helping readers make the best choices at home by sharing tips and how-to guides. As Halloween approaches, in this article she asks gardeners for their tips on how to prevent a pumpkin from rotting.
Last long, do pumpkins last?
We will not deny it, all organic products will inevitably rot. We don’t promise to stop your pumpkin from rotting completely, but what we can do is help you slow down the process.
Before seeing how it’s made, it’s good to know how long pumpkins actually last. This of course depends on how fresh the pumpkin was when you bought it. Although if you’ve visited a pumpkin patch or grown your own your pumpkin will be fresher, organic vegetables won’t have added preservatives like those from a store.
There is also the question of whether your pumpkin is carved. Once carved and cored, the pumpkins are exposed to the air and will therefore decompose more quickly.
“If a pumpkin hasn’t been cut, it can last around two to three months before showing signs of being dead,” says Kevi Tara, gardening expert and nursery owner. LEAFnJOY (opens in a new tab). “However, for it to last that long, the pumpkin should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. Heat, humidity and exposure to light will cause the pumpkin to rot faster.
What about the most fun fall decor of all, a carved Jack-o-lantern? Since pumpkins are about 90% water, they tend to mold, dehydrate, and rot quickly once cut. “The tough skin of the pumpkin is a protective element that prevents moisture and microbes from penetrating the soft flesh of the pumpkin,” says Erinn Witz, gardening expert and co-founder of Seeds and spikes (opens in a new tab). “Once that barrier has been broken down, decay sets in pretty quickly.”
You can expect a carved pumpkin to last about three to five days before it starts to wrinkle and decay. (You will probably also notice the smell). However, if stored in a colder climate like your refrigerator, they could last longer than a week or more.
How do you prevent a pumpkin from rotting?
So how do you keep a pumpkin from rotting? If you have kids who can’t wait until Halloween to carve their pumpkin, you’ll be happy to know that there are ways to make them last once carved. Also, most of the items you will need are inside your house.
In addition to keeping your pumpkin in a cool, dry, dark place, you can use a few household products to prevent it from rotting too quickly. According to Kevi, white vinegar can be used to delay the rotting process. “To kill bacteria and other spores, simply mix equal parts cold water and vinegar, then spray the pumpkin inside and out with the solution daily,” she says.
Some sources might advise you to use a dilute bleach solution to spray your pumpkin to make sure there are no bacteria on its surface, but this could be harmful to animals, especially if your pumpkin is outside so we don’t recommend it.
If you’ve ever wondered what those little packets of gel beads are inside the package, it’s a type of desiccant that retains water vapor to prevent damage from the humidity. So they also work well to prevent rotting of pumpkins by absorbing water.
“One trick to slow down the natural decay process is to put a sachet or two of silica gel in your carved pumpkin,” Erinn suggests. “The silica attracts moisture, which should help you enjoy a few extra days of your Jack-o-lantern.” However, she also points out that silica gel is flammable, so you should never use a real candle to light your pumpkin in this case. Instead, opt for battery powered.
Vaseline (better known as petroleum jelly) is not only a healing salve, but it also acts as a preservative, which means it can help your pumpkin last longer. “Just cover all the cut parts with petroleum jelly after you finish sculpting them,” Kevi explains. “But you should never use real candles inside your pumpkin because Vaseline is flammable.”
What about whole pumpkins?
A collection of pumpkins of different colors and varieties fall table decor idea but not when they turn into a muddy, rotting mess on your dining table. Fortunately, some of the steps mentioned above can also be used to prevent an intact pumpkin from rotting.
Cleaning your pumpkin with the white vinegar solution will help prevent bacteria from breaking it down as quickly. Use a cloth and wipe it down daily to keep it clean and fresh longer. For an extra layer of protection, you can also add petroleum jelly over it to help preserve the crust.
If your pumpkin is outdoors, be sure to bring it indoors if a frost is in the forecast, as cold, wet weather will speed up decomposition.
What alternatives are there for more durable pumpkins?
If you don’t like the idea of maintaining a pumpkin and then throwing it away, you can use artificial pumpkins instead, like the ones from Amazon (opens in a new tab). This way you can reduce the hassle of cleaning and reuse them every year.
There is also the possibility of paint a pumpkin. Not only is this a more kid-friendly option than carving, but using acrylic paints on the surface will help preserve it for longer.