Chances are you already have a carved out smiling jack-o-lantern sitting on your doorstep. If not, you may have a hand-painted masterpiece on display. With Halloween just days away, here are a few tips for how to decorate with and best preserve fall’s favorite large orange fruit.
In order to make sure your pumpkin lasts through Halloween, you’ll first want to pick the best pumpkin. A healthy pumpkin should feel hard and solid and not show any signs of rot. The type of pumpkin you choose should reflect the purpose you have in mind, such as home decor, kid decorating or baking.
Robin Hayden at Trunnell’s Farm Market said that there are different types of pumpkins, and not all pumpkins are good for all purposes.
“We do have pie pumpkins,” Hayden said,” but not all pumpkins are good for pies, some are just gourds.”
If your purpose is strictly for decorating, painting or carving, you can choose whatever style and color appeals to you as long as the skin looks healthy.
This year, the big kid-friendly trend is pumpkin painting, rather than carving.
“A lot of people do paint so they don’t have to worry about them going bad,” Hayden said, “and they can set them out early.”
Acrylic paint is the recommended paint for pumpkins, as it is less expensive, available in a variety of colors and adheres to the pumpkin’s surface well. Children should be given paint and brushes and directed to paint as if the surface where canvas or paper, just a little rounder.
Small children should be assisted when painting, and clothing should be covered with an old T-shirt as acrylic paint is difficult to get out. Pumpkins can then be displayed in or outdoors until they begin to soften.
How soon before Halloween should you carve a pumpkin? That’s the magic question. Hayden says that it does depend on how soon the pumpkin has been picked. Whether pumpkins have been carved or not, they still have a limited life expectancy.
As for putting that Jack-o-Lantern out the week before Halloween, Hayden suggests you wait until the day before Halloween. Rot can set in quickly, especially with the rainy weather, although the cooler temperatures will help to preserve the pumpkin.
One of the most helpful tips for keeping your carved pumpkin fresh is not cutting off the top of the pumpkin. Experts recommend instead, cutting a large opening in the bottom and cleaning out the seeds and insides as usual.
Use battery-operated tea lights or small strands of Christmas lights to illuminate the inside, rather than traditional candles.
If you were an early carver, you can dip your pumpkin in a quick ice bath and dry it thoroughly or rinse it out with a bleach and water solution (1 tsp/1 gallon). This will help to kill developing bacteria and delay the molding process.
It is so easy now go to the bakery or grocery store and pick up a ready-made pumpkin pie or even a bag of roasted, seasoned pumpkin seeds that it deters many from investing in the mess.
If you still have the desire to create edible treats from your pumpkin, Hayden recommends you choose the right pumpkin for the job.
“Smaller pumpkins have proved to be better tasters for cooking,” Hayden said. “Pumpkins that are bigger by volume have more seeds.”
Here are a few ideas for a fun spin on roasted pumpkin seeds.
Set the oven to a lower temperature, no hotter than 300 degrees.
Clean off all pulp from seeds and rinse and dry thoroughly.
Toss seeds in a bowl with melted butter or olive oil.
Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.
Toss or sprinkle with your choice of sea salt, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay, Taco seasoning, Parmesan cheese or cinnamon and sugar.