RISMEDIA, Oct. 16, 2007-Whether you’re growing your own, visiting a local pumpkin patch or browsing at the store, there is a technique to finding just the right pumpkin. Carefully chosen pumpkins will last longer, look nicer, and taste better.
First, choose a design to carve before you go shopping for pumpkins. Think about which shape would best suit your design–tall and narrow? Flat and round? If you’re going to use stencils, look for a pumpkin with a shape similar to the pattern you’re going to carve.
Check for a smooth, uniformly colored skin. The flesh should be firm, not elastic in any way. Inspect the entire pumpkin. Stay away from pumpkins with bruises, cuts, scratches or any signs of mold. If you’ll be using stencils, steer clear of dents as well.
Keep an eye out for smaller, “sugar” pumpkins for eating. Not all pumpkins will taste good in a pie. Sugar pumpkins are 200-250mm (8-10″) in diameter and will have smoother, less stringy flesh than a decorative pumpkin.
Knock on the shell. Ripe pumpkins will make a “hollow” sound. If the pumpkin is the on the vine, the vine should be dry and the stem should be hard and brown. The ripeness of the pumpkin might not matter as much if you’re only interested in carving (in which case an unripened pumpkin might last longer).
Set the pumpkin up to make sure it sits level. You don’t want to choose a pumpkin for carving only to find that it won’t sit up straight for you. If the pumpkin grew on its side and has a flat spot there, you might be able to incorporate it into your design or turn that side against a wall so it isn’t seen.
Pick up the pumpkin from the bottom–never from the stem. It can break off easily. If it does break, save the stem because you can often patch it back on with toothpicks.
Handle it carefully on the way home. Don’t slam it down on the table or let it roll around in the trunk. Any bruises will shorten the pumpkin’s lifespan.
Store your pumpkins in a cool, dry place. Doing so will help cure the rind, making it less vulnerable to rot.
It’s always best to seek pumpkins straight from the vine, because you’ll have a better idea of how fresh and ripe it is, and they’ll have avoided the abuse of being transported. Some types of pumpkin ripen faster than others. If you’re dealing with an unusual pumpkin variety, research it and adapt these instructions accordingly.
Since a pumpkin is a member of the winter squash family, it’ll last quite a while in storage. It’s only when it’s carved that it’ll begin to deteriorate rapidly.
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