Halloween is nearly upon us and I, for one, am delighted. Who doesn’t love colder days, sweater weather and, of course, pumpkin everything?! In my minds eye I always create beautiful, elaborate carved and painted pumpkins but, because I am NOT artistic, they usually end up looking a little sad. This year, however, I’m taking a few tips from the pumpkin-carving experts.
Although we usually concentrate on sharing information about CBD, today we will take a break from the serious matter of cannabinoids and chat about pumpkin carving hacks. I’ve collected the best and easiest tips from the pros in the hopes that it will make you Fall holiday decorating more relaxing and enjoyable.
Picking Your Pumpkin
Choosing the perfect pumpkin for carving doesn’t seem like it should be rocket science but there are actually things you should look for while shopping for your future jack-o-lantern.
1. Avoid soft spots and gauges
Soft spots are a sign that the pumpkin is beginning to rot and any cuts will hasten the rotting process. Look for a hard, unblemished exterior!
2. Check out the stem
The size and strength of the stem are good indicators of how healthy your pumpkin is. If shopping for an average sized pumpkin look for one one with a stem that is at least two inches wide. You also want to make sure that the stem isn’t completely brown and dry yet. The greener the stem, the longer it will stay fresh!
3. Check on the color
A uniform orange color is what you want to look for. Green spots or browns patches mean the pumpkin is either under- or over-ripe and either can be harder to carve.
4. Avoid frost-bitten pumpkins
If you live in An area that is already experiencing cold days and night, be on the lookout for frost damage. Cold weather damages A pumpkin’s flesh and skin and can make it rot at a faster pace. Check the color surrounding the stem; if it’s duller than the rest of the pumpkin’s bright shade of orange, it has most likely suffered from frost damage.
5. Never carry a pumpkin by its stem
Once you’ve chosen your favorite pumpkin, remember to carry it from the bottom. Remember…it’s a stem, not a handle! You know those big carts at pumpkin patches? They’re there for a reason..
Carving Your Pumpkin
1. Use a dry-erase marker
Instead of using a permanent marker that makes it difficult to revise your design if you mess up or change your mind, sketch with a forgiving dry-erase marker. If you want to redo your pattern, simply wipe off the marker with a damp paper towel.
2. If you’re using an artificial candle, cut a hole in the back (not top) of your pumpkin
Carving a hole in the back of your pumpkin leaves the front of your pumpkin intact and ready for your design. But if you’re planning to use a real candle, you’ll still need to cut a small hole in the top of your pumpkin to let the smoke escape.
3. When clearing out the “guts” of your pumpkin, use an ice cream scoop
Rather than gut your pumpkin with an ordinary spoon, use an ice cream scoop. Not only is this tool designed specifically for scooping, but the sharp edges are perfect for scraping the sides of your pumpkin if you want to thin them before carving. It’s also much easier on the wrist than using a big spoon.
4. If you’re carving the top of your pumpkin, add a notch on the lid
If you’re cutting off the top of your pumpkin, add a V-shaped notch so you’ll always know which way the lid fits back on. Cutting at a slight angle and adding the notch will also prevent the lid from accidentally falling into the pumpkin.
Decorating Your Pumpkin
1. Carve shapes with cookie cutters
If you’re going to carve basic shapes into your pumpkin, forget the bulky knife and get out your cookie cutter collection. Place your pumpkin on its side on a flat surface, then position your cookie cutter where you’d like it to go, pushing the sharp side is against the skin of the pumpkin. Now tap the cookie cutter with a rubber mallet until it goes all the way through the pumpkin.
2. Use a drill instead on a knife
If you want to create holes in your pumpkin of almost any size, the easiest method is to pull out your drill. Fit the drill with the size drill bit you’d like to use, hold your pumpkin steady on a flat surface, and carefully drill into the pumpkin. Be sure to wipe down and dry off your pumpkin before drilling so that stray pumpkin guts won’t make the surface slippery. Don’t have a drill? Use wooden skewers on smaller pumpkins (large pumpkins may break the wood).
3. Sprinkle with cinnamon
Lightly sprinkle the top of the pumpkin lid with a little coating of cinnamon then dab it with a paper towel. Make sure the cinnamon is completely soaked in so there is no loose cinnamon inside the pumpkin as it can be flammable. Light a candle, replace the lid and in just a few minutes, the room will smell like pumpkin spice.
4. Use twinkle lights
Instead of a real candle (or even an artificial one), fill a glass jar with tiny battery-powered fairy lights and watch them twinkle!.
5. Make and fill a pumpkin vase
To your pumpkin into a vase, choose an appropriately sized can or jar, carve your lid to the same specifications as the opening of the can or jar and fill with water and flowers! Keep your flower stems fairly short and it will look like you’ve been to the florist.
6. Use props
Don’t be afraid to use props to really make your pumpkin pop. Face masks (can pumpkins get COVID?), crowns, hats, glasses and even plastic vampire teeth are inexpensive, easy ways to make your Halloween decoration funny and clever.
How to make pumpkins last longer
1. Use petroleum jelly
Directly after carving your pumpkin, rub petroleum jelly onto the carved areas (eyes, lid etc.). The jelly will protect the surface, seal in moisture and keep your pumpkin from getting dry and shriveled.
2. Use bleach
Create a bleach solution using one teaspoon of bleach per each gallon of water. Transfer the solution into a spray bottle and spray the inside AND outside of the pumpkin after scooping out the guts. Spray all over once after carving and let dry. This kills any bacteria that will hasten the rotting process. Continue to spray each day to keep it hydrated!
Pumpkin Seed Success
1. Getting rid of the gunk.
When you first scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin put the whole messy clump into a pasta strainer. Run it all under cold water and separate the strings from the seeds- they will come apart easily under the water. Just rinse the mass of seeds and strings under cool water and the seeds will separate easily. Let the clean seeds dry on a paper towels and they’re ready for roasting.
2. Salt ‘em.
There is a trick to salting the whole of the seed- indie AND out. Boil the seeds first in salted water as this gets the salt inside to the seed as well as outside on the shell. The more salt you use in the water and the longer you boil, the saltier the end product will be.
3. Bake ‘em.
Regardless of the size or number of your seeds, bake them at 400°F until they begin to turn a light brown. Small pumpkin seeds may toast in around 5 minutes or so, while large pumpkin seeds may take up to 20 minutes.
4. Eat ‘em.
While most pumpkin seed lovers take them with just salt, adventurous Trick-or-Treaters can use various seasonings to spice up their snack. Try tossing the seeds in oil and then coating with chili powder or curry powder prior to baking for a savory flavor. My daughter’s favorite is a cinnamon and sugar topping and this year we are going to try the obvious (yet never tried) pumpkin spice.
No matter how you celebrate the Fall holiday remember to be safe, try something new (pumpkin spice seeds?) and have fun!