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Pumpkin Selection and Storage
for Jack-o-Lanterns

Selection

Jack-o-LanternsPumpkins for Jack-o-Lanterns should be clean, free of soft spots, and have a deep rich color. A notable exception to the color rule are the white varieties such as Lumina. White varieties should be perfectly white with little or no variation in color and definitely no green.

Pumpkins should have a hard rind and feel heavy for their size. The longest lasting pumpkins will have stems that are intact, dry, and have been cut well away from the pumpkin. Different varieties of pumpkins are grown for different purposes. Selecting a variety grown for carving will give the best results.

Be sure to avoid pumpkins that are broken or cracked or have excessive scarring. Properly cured pumpkins are quite tough. Pressing your fingernail to the side of a good pumpkin should leave little or no mark. Those that scar heavily should also be avoided.

Timing can also play an important part in the selection of the perfect pumpkin. If the weather report says rain, it's important to purchase, if possible, your pumpkin before the rain. If you can't purchase your pumpkin before a rain try to wait a few days after so you can identify those that have been damaged by the weather. Try to avoid pumpkins which have been concealed under vegetation or deep in hay during and following a rain. Excessive moisture and large changes in humidity and/or temperature will promote rot and dramatically reduce the lifespan of your pumpkin.

Despite being exposed to the weather, it is often better to purchase pumpkins from the farmer or farmer's market rather than a supermarket. The reason is these pumpkins have generally spent more time on the vine and have fully "cured" or ripened so that they have greater storage potential and are less prone to rot.

Storage - Before you carve:

Once you get your pumpkins home you'll want to store them for maximum enjoyment and longevity. Storing in a cool (50 - 70), dry place out of direct sunlight is paramount. Temperatures below 50 will cause chill damage.  Properly selected and stored pumpkins can and often do last from one Halloween to the next!

Storage - After you carve:

After you've carefully carved your pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern there are a number of things you can do to make it last its longest. First, you need to protect the pumpkin from temperature swings and direct sunlight. Keep your pumpkin on a covered porch with good air flow when on display and in a cool dry spot when not. Freezing and high temperatures should be avoided.

The second thing you can do is to coat all cuts with a solution of lemon juice and water. This helps create and acidic environment that many molds do not like. Third, You can also coat the cuts with petroleum jelly or even cling wrap to prevent exposure to oxygen. These two can be done together for maximum protection.

Fourth, if your pumpkins are small you can dunk them in commercial pumpkin preservatives. This is the most expensive route but if you spent hours carving your jack it might be worth it as you can display your creation longer. Another method is dunk your pumpkin in a brine solution as if you were making pickles.

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