Questions about pumpkins

Years ago my father used to grow pumpkins in his front yard. They'd grow thick and lush and he'd have enough to eat, put away, and give to the neighborhood kids for halloween.
I thought I'd try the same thing in my front yard this year but didn't think I'd have any luck. His yard was rich alluvial soil. Mine is pretty much beach sand. But lo and behold I've got four great looking plants spreading over the whole yard with a dozen or more rather large fruit (?) on them and more on the way; they're still blossoming!
So, two questions:
1. When are they ripe enough to pick and eat? (I know, when they turn pumpkin color, dummy! But that might not be true. After they turn completely orange, are they completely ripe, or should I look for some other sign?)
2. How long can they remain on the vine before they are past their prime? Do they get woody, lose their flavor, or does other bad things happen to them if you don't pick them at the peak time?
Many thanks, as usual.
-Frank
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On Sun, 20 Jul 2008 13:08:30 -0700, Frank J Warner

You did not say where you are. In the northern U.S., say north of the Ohio River, my experience is that they will stay on the vines until frost without harm and become progressively sweeter. In the far south, say the Gulf coast, they are a lot harder to keep after maturity because it is warm for several additional months. You should probably inquire of local gardeners and your county extension service (assumng that you are in the U.S.).
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Sorry for the omission. I should know better but I don't visit R.C.E. often enough to remember this. I'm in California, Central Coast, near Santa Barbara. Sunset garden zone 16. USDA zone 8a or 8b. No frost until February or March.
Your answer about leaving them on the vines is useful. Anything else I should know?
-Frank
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Wrong. They are delicious as a green squash when they are small and green!

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Omelet wrote:

I'm growing green striped cushaws this year instead of summer squash.
They are just about to start blooming. I planted them *hoping* they were good when picked small and tender, because we don't need all that many pumpkins. I just wanted to plant something different.
They've just started to run. They look determined to take over the whole garden plus my neighbor's back yard if they get thru the fence.
Bob
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Pumpkin vines get huge. <g> Mom introduced me to baby pumpkin years ago. They are delicious.
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Yes. I did a search on pumpkins in this ng before posting my questions and have heard you say that, but I'm interested in yer regular run-of-the-mill orange jack-o-lantern pumpkin pie pumpkins.

-Frank
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Frank J Warner wrote:

I think they are ready to pick when you cannot pierce the skin with your thumbnail (then give them another week for good measure). Also the stem should be woody. Maybe someone who has grown them before can give you more details, but hopefully this will help.
Bob
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Treat them like zucchini. ;-d
Even those are inedible if they get too big.
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Often when zucchini gets to the size of baseball bats, we still eat them. we would make zucchini bread out of them.
Simon

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In article

I've read about practical jokes being pulled using over-grown zuke's. ;-) They get to be like nasty water bombs. People like to drop them off of bridges on to unsuspecting picnickers. <g>
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zxcvbob said:

Bob's got it right. And the stem on typical pie/jack o'lantern pumpkins will be as hard as wood.
The longer you leave them on the vine, the sweeter they should be.
I do believe that even in warmer weather areas, the vines will begin to decline as the pumpkins mature. (They normally do that in my garden some time before frost finally kills them.)
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The pumpkins we grew were discarded halloween pumpkins from the grocery store. The vines grew out of the compost heap. ;-)
I've never bought pumpkin seeds.
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