The perfect pumpkin

Dana Owen

Fall is not only a time for football, colorful leaves, and cool weather, but also for pumpkin picking! One of October’s staple decorations and the source of fun for people everywhere is the pumpkin.

Though they can be found in most grocery stores, it’s a lot more fun to pick your own at one of the many farms in the area. Then, not only can you find the perfect pumpkin, but can also pick up some yummy hot or cold apple cider, donuts, or even a fresh baked apple pie. Some farms also offer hayrides and other activities to do with friends so that you can make it a whole day’s event.

Speaking of perfect pumpkins, there are so many how can you possible find the “perfect” one? Even though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are a few tips to keep in mind while hunting for “the one.” Make sure the pumpkin is firm all around, especially at the bottom. No part of the pumpkin should by mushy. It should also be solid. This can be tested by knocking gently on the exterior of the pumpkin. Be mindful of moldy pumpkins and remember that if the pumpkin you like is not perfectly round, you can always turn it so that the best side will face outwards when on display. Finally, tug lightly on the stem to make sure that it is snug. Never carry a pumpkin by it’s stem, the weight may cause it to snap and it reduces the lifespan of the pumpkin.

Besides those pointers, any shade of orange, size, shape, or stem style can make for a beautiful and original pumpkin display.

There are many options for decorating your pumpkin once you decide on one. If you’d rather avoid the mess of carving, painting the pumpkin is a good option with high aesthetic appeal. Acrylic paints, which can be purchased relatively inexpensively from most craft stores, works best. The thick consistency adheres to the pumpkin’s surface well and preserves the brilliance of most colors.

If carving is your thing, start by laying down newspapers or a garbage bag to minimize messes. Then, using either a sharp knife or a pumpkin carving set which is sold in most grocery, party, or craft stores, carefully make a hole either in the top by cutting around the stem, or in the bottom by cutting a hole around the base. Next, take a large spoon or scooping tool and remove all of the seeds and pulp from the inside. Scraping the inside walls of the pumpkin helps the process along while smoothing the sides.

If you have access to an oven save the seeds because they make a delicious snack. Once all of the insides are removed, sketch the design of your choice with a pencil or magic marker on the outside. More intricate patterns can be found on the internet or in pattern books. Begin cutting the design with a smaller sharp knife or carving tool being sure to keep in mind the parts of the pumpkin where the light will shine through. Always use slow, steady strokes and never cut towards yourself with the knife.

To preserve the shelf life of your pumpkin and give it a little extra glow, coat all of its surfaces with petroleum jelly or vegetable oil.

Since candles are not allowed in campus residence halls, a safe alternative that is equally pleasing to the eye is a battery-powered artificial candle especially made for pumpkins that gives the same effect as a real flame.

No matter the method, be creative with your pumpkins and they will surely be an enjoyable fall decoration for your home or dorm room.