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Ripen your pumpkins

Lisa Garden on 12-09-2014

Ripen your pumpkins in the last of the autumn sunshine and they'll not only make fantastic Jack o'Lanterns for Hallowe'en, they'll also keep for months.

There are loads of gorgeous pumpkin varieties around these days. For real whoppers to carve into spooky decorations for your doorstep, go for 'Atlantic Giant' or 'Hundredweight', but if space is limited try more modestly-proportioned 'Becky', or dwarf pumpkins like 'Jack B Little' or 'Baby Bear', perfect for growing in roomy containers.

Whichever variety you grow, a good long ripening period at the end of the growing season helps the skin harden into a protective layer that keeps fruit fresh for several months. Remove any leaves shadowing your pumpkins to keep the fruit exposed to the sun. Then raise them up on a layer of bricks. These absorb the sun's warmth and release it overnight, extending the ripening period still further.

Finally, turn each fruit by a quarter-turn every few days to ensure every side is ripened evenly to a rich golden orange. When it sounds hollow if you knock it, it's ready: cut the fruit away with a couple of inches of stem and keep it somewhere cool and dry till you're ready to use it.