If you have had a successful growing season in your polytunnel then by now you may well have pumpkins and squash ready to harvest. These large, colourful crops take up a lot of space, but when grown vertically, can be a good use of space in your polytunnel and a satisfying boost to the mood of those who grow their own food.
Colour is usually a good indicator that a pumpkin is ripe. Most (though not all) pumpkins are ripe when they are orange all the way around. However, colour is not the only indicator to use to determine whether or not your pumpkins are ripe. A ripe pumpkin will have hard skin. When you use a fingernail to try to puncture the skin, the skin of a ripe pumpkin will dent but not puncture. Also, when you give a ripe pumpkin a thump, it should sound hollow. Finally, look at the stem above the pumpkin in question, which should have begun to turn hard.
The flesh of a ripe squash will also be difficult to pierce. The skin on the squash that are ready for harvest will be full but not glossy, firm and rich in colour. Like on pumpkins, the stems should be dry and firm. Obviously the wide range of squash leads to a huge amount of variation in colour and size but remember that most winter squash will be ready for harvest around 120 days from when the seeds are sown, which should also give you some indication as to whether it is likely that your squash will be mature.
Always make sure that you use a sharp knife to harvest your pumpkins and squash to ensure you do not have a ragged cut on the stem that could introduce rot or disease. It is best to leave a stem of a couple of inches on each pumpkin or squash as this will slow down decay and reduce the chances of your pumpkin or squash rotting quickly.
Store pumpkins and squash out of direct sunlight. If the pumpkins or squash are blemished, use them up first. Perfect examples however can be stored for several months before eating. Those not suitable for storage may be the best ones to use for Halloween decorations.