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Carve the perfect jack-o-lantern just in time for Halloween

September 30, 2015
By Tresa Erickson , Family Features

Picking pumpkins and carving them into jack-o-lanterns is a fun fall tradition for old and young alike. Whether you go to a pumpkin patch or stop by a roadside stand, you'll want to get some good pumpkins. Here are some tips for selecting good pumpkins and preserving them after carving.

Pumpkins come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. What will work best for your carving needs? Medium-sized pumpkins with flat bottoms generally work the best for carving. You may need smaller or larger pumpkins, however, for your creations. Whatever sizes and shapes appeal to you, make sure the pumpkins are in good condition.

Color is a great indication of a pumpkin's condition. The best pumpkins are bright orange with bright green stems. They are also firm and free of bruises, cracks, splits, soft spots, insect holes and other damage. Whatever pumpkins interest you, make sure you give them a tap. If they sound hollow, they should work well for carving.

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When you have selected some pumpkins, be careful transporting them. Use a wagon if provided or carry them gingerly to the checkout counter one at a time. Be just as careful when you get home. Move the pumpkins indoors with care. You don't want to spend half a day in a pumpkin patch locating the best pumpkins only to drop and damage them when you get home.

Carving pumpkins can be great fun. There are all kinds of kits available, or you can go it alone. However you go about the carving, you will want to preserve the jack-o-lanterns for as long as possible to ensure they last through Halloween and maybe even a few days beyond.

Decomposition begins the moment of carving. The pumpkin's protective skin is no longer intact, and various organisms like bacteria and fungi get inside and start breaking it down. The oxygen in the air speeds up decomposition as does dehydration. The pumpkin will begin drying out the moment it is carved.

To reduce the rate of decomposition, there are a couple of things you can do. You can sterilize and seal the pumpkin's surfaces. First, wipe down the outside of the pumpkin. Then mix a tablespoon of bleach per quart of water and spray it inside the pumpkin. This will eliminate any organisms present. Let the pumpkin dry, and after you have carved it, rub down the carved surfaces with petroleum jelly to reduce dehydration.

Proper storage is a must to keep your carving creations intact. You should store your jack-o-lanterns someplace cool until you are ready to put them out for the holiday. When you do put them out, try to place them out of the sun to prevent further dehydration.

Picking pumpkins and carving them into jack-o-lanterns is a fall tradition in many households. Don't miss out! Take the time to choose the best pumpkins for carving and preserve your jack-o-lanterns for as long as possible.

 
 

 

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