In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Fully-mature pumpkins like 'Cinderella' can last more than a year if kept dry.
Harvest winter squash, pumpkins and decorative gourds when the vines are dry and the rinds are hard and resist easy puncture by a fingernail. Cut the stems rather than breaking or tearing them, and leave two inches of stem attached to the squash to lessen the chance of spoilage. Gourds will dry quicker if you drill a small hole at each end. Let them cure in a dry, well-ventilated area at room temperature for two weeks. Store cured squash at 50 to 60 degrees in a dry area. Check them weekly for mold. If any appears, wipe it off with a paper towel moistened with vinegar. Squash should keep up to six months.
Toast--don't toss--your pumpkin seeds when you carve your Jack- o'-lantern. Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp by washing the seeds well. Spread them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt if desired. Toast them for three or four minutes at 375 degrees, stir, and toast another two or three minutes until they're evenly golden. Cool them to room temperature, and enjoy!
Harvest potatoes now, being careful not to cut or bruise them, or leave them in the soil for harvest through the winter. Take care not to expose them to sunlight or soil cracks, however, or they'll develop inedible, bitter green areas. (After off cutting these areas and discarding them, the remaining potato can be eaten.) After harvest, hold the potatoes at 75 to 85 degrees for a week, and then store them at 50 to 60 degrees with high humidity. They should keep for six to fifteen weeks. Refrigerating them at 36 to 40 degrees will turn some of the starch into sugar, making them taste oddly sweet and cook up dark.
Harvest sweet potatoes when the vines yellow. Try to get them before the leaves are killed by frost. Air dry them for a day, keep them at 85 to 90 degrees with 90 to 95 percent humidity for one to two weeks, and then store them at 55 to 60 degrees and 90 to 95 percent humidity. The flavor improves during storage, as part of the starch content turns into sugar (what you didn't want to happen with the white potatoes).
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