Picking the Perfect Pumpkin
Halloween is looming around the corner, which means it is almost time to start carving pumpkins. So what type of pumpkin makes the best jack o'lantern? Before heading to the pumpkin patch or farmers market, take a minute to read these helpful hints.
The first step to finding the right pumpkin is deciding on the design you want to carve. Depending on the size and shape of your design, you may need a tall narrow pumpkin or a short round one. You can carve just about any type of pumpkin, gourd or squash. A good carving pumpkin should be firm and healthy. Ideally you want one with a shell that is hard enough to protect, but still allows you to get a knife through. Pumpkins with outer shells that feel as hard as a piece of wood are very difficult, and dangerous to slice into.
Smaller pumpkins are suitable for carving simple traditional jack o'lantern faces. Medium sized pumpkins are good selections for most stencil patterns. For more intricate and elaborate designs, you may want to choose a larger pumpkin so it will be easier to carve.
A pumpkin with a smooth surface will give you the best working canvas. Lighter colored pumpkins are normally softer, making carving easier.
Shape is up to your own taste, but check to see if your pumpkin has a good balanced base to sit on so it doesn't roll over when you try to display it.
Tap the pumpkin gently and listen for a slightly hollow sound. Lifting the pumpkin will also give you a good idea of how dense it is. The heavier the pumpkin, the thicker the walls. Thick walls block the candle light and carving details will be lost. If worse comes to worse you can always shave the pumpkin from the inside.
Look for a ripe pumpkin with a sturdy stem. Do not carry the pumpkin by its stem to avoid breaking it. If the stem does break off, it can be patched back up using toothpicks. If your perfect pumpkin is missing its stem, instead of carving out a lid on top, simply carve out the bottom. Place a candle on the carved out section, and set the pumpkin over it.
You should avoid pumpkins with scratches, nicks, cuts and dents unless they will enhance your design. Also pass up pumpkins with bruises since these will decay faster.
Your jack o'lantern will start to dry and shrivel as soon as it is cut and exposed to the air. If you need to carve your pumpkin a few days before you'll be displaying it, try these tips to keep it fresh longer. Keep it in a cool spot, out of direct sunlight. Spray it with anti-transparent, like wilt-pruf. Drape the entire pumpkin with a damp towel. Protect it from animals that might be tempted to take a bite. Last but not least, don't leave the pumpkin outdoors if there is threat of frost.
Hopefully these tips have helped make the search for the perfect pumpkin easier for you. Have a happy and safe Halloween.