Halloween is no longer strictly for kids, and any excuse to decorate the house for a spooky soiree is more than welcome.
Check out these tips for preserving a pumpkin to make the most of your festive décor.
Stage 1: Pre-carving
Once you get your pumpkin home you likely won’t carve it immediately – you’ll want to store it safely before beginning your masterpiece. So what’s the best way to store it to keep its shape and colour?
- Don’t keep in direct sunlight – the heat will fade the colour.
Do keep in shade or under a light cover. Who wants a patchy-coloured pumpkin?
- Don’t let the cold get to it. Frost will damage the pumpkin’s skin and allow germs to enter when it thaws. The inside will also go soft, causing it to cave in.
Do make sure to keep a blanket over it, so it doesn’t get damaged by frost if it’s being stored outside or in the porch.
- Don’t place it straight onto a wooden countertop or table. A non-porous, hard surface will age your squash prematurely and cause it to leak pumpkin juice onto the surface. Not only will this ruin your chances of winning the Best Carved Pumpkin title, it will also likely spoil your worktop or table.
Do use a placemat, cloth or cardboard as a buffer between your squash and its storage space.
- Don’t let bacteria enter your gourd. If it does, your pumpkin will rot prematurely.
Do soak the germs out. Ensure your pumpkin stays squeaky clean before you carve it by diluting some bleach in water in a large bucket (10 parts water to one part bleach) and leaving your squash to bathe.
Stage 2: Carving
This is the hardest part. Show caution when carving a pumpkin, not least because it involves wielding a sharp knife to cut your design. So, first and foremost: mind your fingers.
And when it comes to pumpkin preservation…
- Don’t forget to wash your hands. Obvious, but it’s crucial not to allow germs to enter the squash.
Do give your hands a good rinse with antibacterial soap. Go a step further and give the pumpkin a blast of antibacterial spray.
- Don’t use filthy tools to carve – another way bacteria can creep in and ruin your efforts.
Do use freshly-washed utensils to safely remove the top, scoop out the stringy bits and carve the spooky face.
Stage 3: Keeping Your Carved Pumpkin
Now you’ve created a masterpiece, how can you get the most out of it and stop it from shriveling too quickly?
- Don’t expect it to be invulnerable to germs. It might look frightful, but it takes a lot to scare off bacteria and fungus.
Do spray with peppermint spray. Peppermint spray is antifungal and can help slow the decomposition process.
- Don’t let it overheat. While your family enjoys a cosy home in the evenings, your pumpkin doesn’t. Leaving it out in the living room or kitchen overnight may cause it to overheat and lose its consistency.
Do keep your jack-o’-lantern in the fridge overnight, or soak it in a bucket of cool water to help it keep its shape.
- Don’t let it become a feasting ground for fruit flies. Nobody wants a swarm of hungry fruit flies buzzing around.
Do use a fruit fly trap to keep them from feasting on ol’ Jack.
- Don’t let the skin get cracked and worn. It may add to the spooky effect, but it’s also an entry point for fungus and bacteria.
Do apply Vaseline to your squash’s skin. Keep it supple and he’ll thank you for it!
“What about eating the inside of the pumpkin?” we hear you call.
Well, when it comes to storing the pumpkin’s innards before transforming it to something delicious, it’s quite simple:
- When you’ve scooped it out, give it a rinse in a sieve and remove the pips. Pips can be toasted, if you want to make a crunchy Halloween snack!
- Keep the stringy flesh in a sealed Tupperware until you’re ready to use it. Store this Tupperware in the fridge – just don’t forget about it…