You bought a pumpkin or two and are not sure how long pumpkins last.
Maybe you want to carve a pumpkin for the very first time, but you’re not quite sure how long that Jack-o-Lantern will keep.
Or you just need to know long the whole thing lasts before it spoils.
If so, this article is for you. In it, we’re going to cover:
- storage, shelf life, and spoilage of pumpkins
- how long do Jack-o-Lanterns last
Let’s get right in.
How Long Do Pumpkins Last?
Whole disease-free pumpkins keep for two to three months if you store them in a cool and dry place. Once you cut up a pumpkin, it keeps for 4 to 5 days in the fridge. Carved Jack-o-Lanterns last for 3 to 7 days at room temperature and 7 to 14 days outside.
One thing to remember is that when you buy pumpkins at a grocery store, you never know how long they’ve been sitting on the vegetable stand. So to get the most bang for your buck, you should pick the best ones available.
Pumpkins Shelf Life
|Whole pumpkin||2 – 3 months|
|Cut-up pumpkin||4 – 5 days|
|Canned pumpkin puree||Best-by + 6+ months|
|Open pumpkin puree||5 to 7 days|
|Carved pumpkin||3 – 7 days||1 – 2 weeks|
Pick pumpkins that are firm to the touch and feel heavy for their size.
Make sure the stem is still attached and that it’s firm. A softish or rubbery stem means the pumpkin has already started (or will start soon) losing liquid and going soft, and it definitely won’t last those two to three months that I mentioned.
Next, avoid bruises, wounds, and any visible cuts in the skin. Pumpkins might appear tough on the outside, but they are easily damaged if the rind is punctured. When that happens, the pumpkin will decay from the inside out, and you’ll only learn out about it after cutting it open a month later.
That said, the rind doesn’t have to be picture-perfect. Some rougher areas that are harsh to the touch and a bit dry are okay. 98 out of 100 times, the flesh inside will be perfectly fine.
How To Tell If a Pumpkin Is Bad?
Pumpkins that sit in storage for too long go soft from the bottom up. At first, there are some soft spots, and soon the whole thing starts to feel mushy and hollow. Discard your pumpkin if it feels soft or has started to ooze liquid.
Next, look for moldy, rotten, and damaged spots. Small ones are okay to cut out, but if the decay starts to take over the pumpkin, it’s time for it to go.
Here’s how this might look like:
It doesn’t look that bad, but when you cut it up, it shows a different story:
If you store your pumpkin for more than a month, the part with the seeds can get really stringy and gross. That’s okay – you cut it out anyway.
Third, keep storage times in mind. If your cut-up pumpkin or puree sits in the fridge for more than, say, five days (or a week for store-bought puree), get rid of it. It might still be okay, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.
If those storage times are too short, you can both freeze pumpkins and freeze pumpkin puree. Or you can bake a pumpkin pie and freeze it too. Hell, you can even freeze pumpkin pie filling if you want.
Last, sometimes when you cut a pumpkin in half, you might find a small area that’s dark, firm, and kind of dry (there’s a photo of that in my article about butternut squash). You can cut it out with some margin and use the rest of the pumpkin fruit.
How To Store Pumpkins
Store pumpkins in a cool and dry place and allow for some air circulation. Make sure they are away from apples, pears, and other ripening fruit. Once you cut up your pumpkins, refrigerate the leftovers in a freezer bag or container.
The best temperature to store pumpkins is between 55°F and 59°F (or 12.5°C and 15°C). That’s the sweet spot that allows them to last as long as possible.
Some sources recommend a slightly lower temperature of 50°F to 55°F (10°C to 12.5°C), but to me, it’s safer to go with the recommendation above.
That’s because pumpkins don’t like it when it’s chilly. They start to deteriorate much quicker in temperatures below 50°F (or 10°C).
Long story short, if you have an unheated basement or garage that’s cool (but not too cool), it’s an excellent place for long-term pumpkin storage. But if you don’t, storing pumpkins in the pantry or a cupboard in the kitchen is a better option than placing them in the fridge.
Higher storage temperature means quicker weight loss (and therefore water loss) for your pumpkins. And that results in slightly shorter shelf life.
Whole pumpkins last the longest when the relative humidity is between 50 and 70 percent.
That means there’s no condensation on the rind, so it’s difficult for any bacteria and fungi to grow and thrive. But it also means that the pumpkin doesn’t dehydrate too quickly because it sits on a dessert. Some humidity is needed.
To prevent any moisture accumulation on the rind, a bit of air circulation is in order. That means the pumpkins are in a wire basket or another container that allows them to breathe. And definitely not in a plastic bag.
Ethylene-producing Fruits and Veggies
Many ripening fruits and veggies release ethylene gas, which helps them mature. But the excess of that gas causes pumpkins to yellow and shortens their life span. You don’t want that.
How to Store Cut Pumpkin?
There are two ways to store cut pumpkins. If you have the squash halved or quartered, remove the seeds and place the pumpkin in a freezer bag. If you diced or cut up the pumpkin, transfer everything into an airtight container or freezer bag and seal tight.
Leaving the seeds and scooping them out only before cooking doesn’t affect how long the pumpkin will stay good for, but you might as well take care of that when cutting up the squash. This way, the refrigerated pumpkin will be ready to use without any further prep.
Also, please note that there will be condensation in the bag if you’re storing halves or quarters. If you need the pumpkin to last for the full 4 to 5 days without any issues, consider wiping the excess moisture after one or two days of storage.
Last, if those few days aren’t enough for you, you can always freeze the pumpkin for later use. It’s a great way to preserve it if you bought a giant one that you cannot use within a couple of days.
How Long Does a Carved Pumpkin Last?
A carved pumpkin will last for three to seven days at room temperature or between a week and two weeks if you leave it outside. After that period, it will wilt and show other signs of decay, and soon you’ll have to get rid of it.
As you might imagine, the storage temperature is the most important factor when it comes to how long your carved pumpkin stays in good shape. And in that matter, a chilly porch is a much better option than a window inside.
Besides temperature, you can do a couple of other things to get the most out of your Halloween decoration.
To make sure your Jack-o-Lantern looks great on display for Halloween, here are some tips:
- Plan ahead. Carve the pumpkin two to three days before Halloween. This way, it’ll look nice and firm when it matters. If you do it earlier, you might end up with a mushy pumpkin that starts to ooze liquid.
- Scoop out as much flesh as possible. Make sure you remove all the wet strings and seeds. That will slow down the decay and make things less gross later on. You can toast and eat the seeds if you want.
- Store outside if possible. Cool temperature helps the carved pumpkin keep for longer, but make sure your Jack-o-Lantern doesn’t sit in direct sunlight. Alternatively, store it in the fridge when it’s not on display.
- Limit the heat inside. If you’re using a candle as a light source, opt for a small one, and put it out before you go to bed. Or upgrade to a small LED light, which produces much less heat than a candle. You can even find flameless candles that mimic real-life candles quite well.
- Consider a bug light. If your pumpkin sits outside and bugs are an issue, a bug light might be an easy fix.
Related: Do Pumpkin Seeds Go Bad?
If you follow at least a few of the tips above, your beautifully carved Jack-o-Lantern should last for at least 4-5 days, even if you keep it inside.