With the fall season comes lots of fun traditions – enjoying hot apple cider and donuts from the local cider mill, playing in the leaves, and visiting the pumpkin patch! Planning to carve pumpkins for Halloween night with the family? Be sure to educate yourself before taking off on your pumpkin hunt.
Here are ten expert tips for making sure your pumpkin is jack-o’-lantern-worthy:
- Avoid the Mush
The pumpkin should be firm all over. While it may look perfect from the outside, soft spots can indicate decaying on the inside. That discovery could be disastrous come carving time.
- Ban Blemishes
Don’t pick a pumpkin with any brown spots. Even spots as small as a pencil eraser mean bugs have been chewing on the pumpkin and may have burrowed into it. Bug infestation can quickly diminish a pumpkin’s shelf life.
- Go Orange
You can buy pumpkins in lots of different colors and shades, but traditional pumpkins should be orange all over. Minor discoloration is OK, but green on a mostly orange pumpkin can mean something is wrong.
- Have a Good Handle
A pumpkin must have a hard, dark green or black stem. If you pick up the pumpkin, and the stem bends and breaks, put it down. You’ll be thankful for the nice, strong handle when you’re lugging it back to the car.
- Pay Attention to Shape
Round or oval pumpkins carve easier, give you more canvas to work with and have more yummy seeds for roasting. A misshapen pumpkin will not have a full cavity for seeds.
- Look for Frost Damage
If you live in an area where frost is a concern, make sure the pumpkin has no frost damage — which lessens its shelf life. Look at the top of the pumpkin — specifically around the stem. If the color is dull, the pumpkin has frost damage.
- Find the Right Surface
Getting a pumpkin with an exterior that’s easy to carve is a must, too. If you’re going to carve a face in a pumpkin, go for an oblong shape instead of a round one. And find a pumpkin with a flat bottom, so it sits well.
- Go for Character
Your pumpkin doesn’t have to be perfect. Choosing one with bumps and lumps adds character to the final product.
- Evaluate Thickness
If you’re going to cut through the walls, look for a pumpkin that sounds hollow. One for cooking should have thicker walls, which are more difficult to carve.
- Paint Your Pumpkin
Carving is not everything, however. Let your children paint pumpkins instead of using the traditional carving knife for a safer and just-as-fun option.
- Follow Your Heart
The perfect pumpkin is often the one your child loves, no matter its shape or size. Bring a wagon to carry it — and your tired pumpkin-picker — back to the car after a long day of pumpkin hunting.