When's the right time to harvest winter squash and pumpkins?

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Q. How can I tell when the time is right to harvest my winter squash and pumpkins? Some of the vines have almost completely died down while leaves remain on others.

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A. When a squash or pumpkin has matured and is ready for harvesting, the stem attached to the fruit will have turned woody. In most cases, it will also have turned brown. And the skin should have hardened. When you make the cut to sever a squash or pumpkin, leave five to eight cm of stem.

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To further harden the skins and “cure” harvested squash and pumpkins prior to storing them, first make sure they are clean. Then place them in a warm location (26 to 29 C) for a week. After the curing period, they will store best a cool site, ideally between 7 and 10 C.

Q. What can a garlic lover do when consuming raw garlic begins to cause digestive upset? I love growing and consuming garlic. Is there a way for me to enjoy it without discomfort?

A. You could try roasting garlic cloves lightly before using them in foods. I often peel garlic cloves, place them in a heavy pan that has a lid, and drizzle them with olive oil and a tiny bit of water. To avoid burning the cloves, I roast them in the covered pot at a modest heat, around 250 to 300 F, until they are soft. You may find the garlic more digestible this way. It is certainly milder. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

For garlic mashed potatoes, I steam the cloves along with potato pieces until both garlic cloves and potatoes are tender and ready to mash together.

At this time, the garlic is still fairly fresh after harvesting. As time goes on, the cloves in the stored bulbs will develop bitter centres that are best removed before using the garlic. Just halve the cloves lengthwise and take out the centre core.

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