Hunting Down Your Perfect Halloween Pumpkin

Where is that “perfect” pumpkin? It could be in a farmer’s field or at the grocery store. You may need it for carving, painting, cooking or just sitting pretty on the porch. Regardless of your plans for the pumpkin, there are some basic guidelines that will ensure you bring home a winner.

A good choice for any project will be a pumpkin that lasts. Take your time looking over your selection of pumpkins, finding that eye-catching one that speaks to you. Now it has to pass the tests. Start your inspection at the bottom. It should be solid (not spongy) and free from mold, discoloration or insect damage. Try placing it on a flat surface with nothing behind it to see if it can stand up on its own. Up at the top, check to see that the stem is intact and there are no tears at its base. Pumpkins should not be picked up by the stem alone, always support it with your other hand. Run your hands over the entire surface to make sure there are no cuts or bruises. Even the tiniest cut will lead to a large rotten area in a couple of days. If the outer skin feels soft when you press on it or is uncharacteristically light in color, the pumpkin will probably turn to mush a lot quicker.

If you are choosing a pumpkin to carve, there are a few other things to consider. As stated above, the bottom should be fairly level to prevent it from tipping over. This becomes even more important when you are working with sharp instruments. It is also harder to work with a pumpkin that wobbles. Look for a somewhat flatter, more uniform side to do your carving. Cutting out a design will be easier if the outer skin is smooth and has shallow ridges running from top to bottom. To get an idea of the inside of the pumpkin, gently thump it with an open palm and listen. A hollow sound and lighter weight means the pulp will likely be less soggy and easier to clean out. A less hollow sound means it is more “full”, and a heavier pumpkin may indicate more watery, slimy insides.

Regardless of your project, you must protect and care for your prized pumpkin. When bringing your prize home make sure it is secure in the vehicle. Rolling around and bumping into objects will result in bruises, scrapes and punctures. Use towels or other padding to keep it safe and contained. You may want to wrap some newspaper around it to keep everything else clean. Once at home, wash the dirt off using a soft brush if necessary, and thoroughly dry it with paper towels. If your pumpkin does have a cut, you may want to try applying an antibiotic cream to keep the spot from decomposing. Always keep your pumpkin in a cool and dry location to maximize its life span.

All pumpkins have potential and are a great opportunity for you to showcase your creativity. Remembering these tips will help you pick the ideal candidate. Also remember that picking one out is half of the fun!

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