It’s pumpkin picking time! With Halloween just around the corner and so much else to do this time of the year, you might be tempted to grab a couple of pumpkins while you’re at the grocery store and get it over with. Not so fast. You would miss a great opportunity to get the whole family outdoors on a sunny fall day. What’s more, it is always a fun and educational experience for children to go to the place where a fruit or vegetable grows to learn where their food comes from (“Mom, wait, you mean it doesn’t just come from the store?”).
Picking the most perfect pumpkin in the patch should be easy enough, right? You select the biggest, brightest one with no blemishes whatsoever. No? While you probably can’t go wrong with such a plump orange monster of a gourd if your sole goal is to outsize your neighbor, there is more to choosing the pumpkin that’s right for you.
Consider these tips from the Farmer’s Almanac:
- Decide on a design you want to carve in your jack-o’-lantern before you head to the patch. Therefore, you can select the shape that works best for the look you are trying to achieve. Would a narrow, tall pumpkin work better or a short and stout one?
- Smaller pumpkins work well for carving simple traditional jack-o’-lantern faces.
- Medium sized pumpkins are great for most stencil patterns.
- For more elaborate designs with small details, pick a larger pumpkin so it will be easier to carve.
- A pumpkin with a smooth surface will give you the best working canvas.
- Your pumpkin should be flat on the bottom so it will not roll off the porch as soon as the cat rubs its whiskers on it.
- Take a 360-degree look at your pumpkin to make sure it doesn’t have scratches, nicks, cuts or dents – unless they will enhance your design (e.g. a blemish that will look like a scar in the scary pirate face you are going to carve).
- Pass up pumpkins with bruises since these will decay faster.
- Did you know that the lighter colored a pumpkin the softer it usually is, making carving easier?
- You do want a ripe pumpkin, though, with a sturdy stem. How do you know when a pumpkin is ready for picking? Orange color all the way around (no green areas) is a good visual indicator. Also, give you’re pumpkin a good slap (or let your kids do that part, they’ll have fun with it). If it sounds hollow, it’s ripe.
- Do not let the kids carry the pumpkin by its stem to avoid breaking it. If the stem does break off, patch it back on using toothpicks.
- If your otherwise perfect pumpkin is missing its stem, simply carve out the bottom, rather than cutting off a lid on top. Place a candle on the carved out section or on a non-flammable surface, and set the pumpkin over it.
~ Happy Halloween!