It’s pumpkin time! How can you make sure you pick the perfect pumpkin and transform it into a boo-tiful jack-o-lantern? Check out these handy tips with everything you need to know to create your family’s best-ever pumpkin.
The best selection in your local pumpkin patch will probably be available in early October. Of course, selecting your gourd at the grocery store is convenient anytime! My kids have found some of their biggest, best pumpkins at the local store.
No matter where you go, look for smooth pumpkins with no soft spots that indicate rot. It is also ideal to find one with a green stem, which means that the pumpkin has been freshly picked.
Try to keep your kids from picking up the pumpkin by the stem. If the stem breaks off, it could take some of the outer pumpkin with it, making the inside rot faster.
Once you get your prized pumpkin home, store it uncarved in a cool, dry spot. When it is time to create your jack-o-lantern, aim for just a few days before Halloween. This will ensure that it does not decay too fast (boo, black spots!) and looks frightfully good on the big night.
If you are lucky enough to set up a carving station outside, go for it. The mess from making a jack-o-lantern is a lot easier to handle on your patio or in your backyard rather than inside with your furniture and other easily-stained valuables.
Never fear, though. Carving can be done indoors or out, especially with a well-prepared station. To make cleanup easier, line your tabletop with newspaper or a trash bag. You will want to clean up quickly afterward, too, since pumpkin flesh and seeds are super slippery.
MAKE IT BOO-TIFUL
Have you ever seen a jack-o-lantern with black lines on its face? I know when my family uses permanent markers to sketch our design, we are usually left with a couple of mistakes that we must live with or cut out. Here’s a tip I wish I had known years ago: try sketching your lines with a dry-erase marker instead, as their marks are erasable on pumpkins. Or use a template that you can attach directly to the pumpkin as a guide.
When it’s time to cut into your pumpkin, leave that to the adults, as little ones should not handle anything sharp. Instead, give the kids big spoons or an ice cream scoop and let them scrape out the seeds. Save the seeds if you want to toast them later (more on that later).
Grown-ups, your goal should be to cut with short, controlled motions. Don’t forget to go slow! It’s not a race, and you definitely want to avoid a serious hand injury.
Another useful tip is to give kids their own small pumpkin to decorate with glitter and glue or foam stickers while you carve the family’s bigger pumpkin. That way, they will stay engaged and not lose interest.
If carving is more trick than treat for your family, you can always paint your pumpkin instead. Note that you may need several coats to get the desired color, and the paint can take a while to dry between coats.
If you want to roast the seeds later, you’ll want to soak them in a big bowl of warm water. After swirling the seeds and attached goo around with your hands to separate them a bit, let them sit for at least 5 minutes. The goo sinks to the bottom while the seeds float to the top. Once dry, your seeds are ready for whatever sweet or savory recipe you find on the internet. Enjoy!