Pumpkins are perhaps the most widely-used staples for harvest decorating. You can display them plain for fall or Thanksgiving decorating, carve spooky faces or pictures in them for Halloween, and even use them to make desserts and other treats. If you buy real pumpkins each autumn season, here are some tips to help you get the most out of them!
1. Purchase Local Pumpkins
Rather than going to a grocery or chain department store, opt for local farmer’s markets or cider mills. These places will have fresh pumpkins that haven’t been shipped or damaged. Though pumpkins have a tough exterior, they’re still fragile and susceptible to damage if they’re not stored properly or in ideal temperatures. If you're looking for quality, go local.
2. Choose the Right Pumpkin
While looking for the biggest pumpkin is a common goal, make sure you add a few extra prerequisites for yours. Make sure the pumpkin has flat bottom and stands upright on its own so it can withstand rain, wind, and so on. Moreover, check for any soft spots or dark blemishes. These could be the sign of rot inside the pumpkin, which will not last much longer. Overall, you want your pumpkin to be robust, sturdy, and healthy.
3. Buy a Few Extra
Since pumpkins are so versatile, why not take advantage? Pumpkins can be displayed plan, carved, and painted, as well as be used for delicious autumn treats. You can carve a pumpkin and use the pulp and seeds for some recipes, but for others (such as purees) you will need the actual flesh of the pumpkin, so grab one or two extra.
4. Vary Your Display
Pumpkin season stretches from September to November, so there's plenty of time to put together an attractive outdoor display! Healthy pumpkins, left un-carved, can last 8-12 weeks. Pumpkins are naturally beautiful, so if you love the natural look, vary your pumpkin display by incorporating small gourds and green and/or white pumpkins into the mix. If you are so inclined, a little DIY craftiness can look great too! Paint, burlap, twine, lace, beads, and almost anything you can think of can be used to add a special touch. As always, Halloween is the perfect time to get carving! Which leads us to...
5. Don't Carve Too Early!
While carving pumpkins is something most of us can't wait to start, many people carve theirs just a little too early. Carving too early can result in a sagging, wilted pumpkin on Halloween night. Pumpkins only last for a few days after carving, so October 29th and 30th are actually the best days to start. This is another great reason to grab a few extras in the beginning; you’ll want some un-carved pumpkins left over after Halloween for the rest of harvest season!
6. Dispose of Your Pumpkins Properly
While it is tempting to chuck an old pumpkin in the trash, there are greener ways to dispose of pumpkins! If you did not chemically treat your pumpkins, you can use the insides and rind for delicious recipes, smash them and leave them in a park for wildlife to enjoy, use them as compost, bring them to an organic material recycling center, or even donate them to your local zoo as a treat for the animals!
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