How can I tell if a pumpkin is ripe?
I've never grown pumpkins before because the summers really aren't hot enough around here. (Bay Area) Sometimes volunteers pop up where I've thrown the jack o' lantern guts, but the plants always mildew before producing anything. This year someone gave me a seedling of a variety meant for eating -- Sweet something or Sugar something. I'm bad about saving labels. Now, to my surprise, I have two pumpkins, each about six or seven inches across. One is almost completely orange, with a tiny bit of green left. Should I pick it when it's all orange, or let it ripen longer? Is it possible to let it ripen too long? I'm also not sure what to do with one small pumpkin, but I guess that's a question for the home cooking board.
When the pumpkin is all orange and sounds hollow when thumped, it's a pretty good sign that it's ready. Also the skin should be hard and resist puncture by your thumbnail and the stem should be turning woody. Cut it off with plenty of stem left on. This helps to stop pathogens from reaching the body of the fruit. Wipe it off with a 1:10 bleach solution and leave it to cure for about 10 days at around 80 degrees if possible. Curing extends it's storage life. A small sweet pumpkin like you're describing would make a great simple side dish. Cut it in half across the equator (cut the stem off flat so that half will sit stable), scoop out the seeds, smear butter on the flesh and leave a small pat in the bowl. Sprinkle with cinnamon and a little brown sugar and roast at 350 degrees until fork tender.