How to pick pumpkin?


How Long Do Carved Pumpkins Last? When to Carve and How to Preserve

While it may be tempting to show off your impressive carved pumpkins throughout October, It’s a smart idea to learn how long carved pumpkins last so you can carve your Halloween pumpkin at the best time. To make your carved pumpkins last longer, we’ve consulted a couple pumpkin pros for their top tips. Follow their advice, and your masterpiece is guaranteed to look fresh on Halloween night.

When Should You Buy Your Pumpkin?

The best time to pick a pumpkin is within a week of when you plan to carve it, recommends Marc Evan of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. “Look for a large pumpkin, heavy for its size, with unblemished skin,” says Evan. And be sure to avoid the telltale sign of an older pumpkin: a dry, brittle stem. Look for a fresh, green stem that’s about three to five inches long. “You can tell when a pumpkin is ready to harvest when its skin hardens,” says Sarah Perreault, senior editor at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The best test is to press your fingernail into the flesh. If it’s difficult to do, the pumpkin is ready, but if you can pierce it easily, it’s not ripe yet. And whether you’re picking right from the patch or plucking from the aisles of a store, avoid any gourds with visible blemishes, cracks, or soft spots. “Be sure to check the bottom of the pumpkin, too,” she says.

Where Should You Store Your Pumpkin?

Once you’ve picked your pumpkin, how you store it will determine how long it lasts. “Store in a cool, dry bedroom (under the bed is good), or in a cellar or root cellar—anywhere with a temperature around 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” Perreault advises. Resist the temptation to show off your pumpkin on the stoop or in a sunny window, where the warm temperature will cause it to decay quickly. If you can’t stand the idea of an empty stoop this fall, buy some pumpkins to leave on display outdoors and hide those you intend to carve indoors, out of direct sunlight.

How Long Do Carved Pumpkins Last?

So, how long before All Hallows’ Eve should you start working your DIY magic? The later, the better, the pros suggest. “Carve no more than three days before Halloween,” Evan recommends. Luckily, with the 31st landing on a Tuesday this year, you can carve your pumpkins on the weekend and they’ll still look fantastic when trick-or-treaters arrive. How long your pumpkins last will depend on the temperature, and with the unseasonably warm weather in many parts of the country, they may only look good for about one week.

How to Preserve a Carved Pumpkin

1. Keep it under wraps: If you absolutely must carve your pumpkin earlier, you can preserve your carved pumpkin by keeping it wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated when not on display.

2. Protect it: Swipe some petroleum jelly onto the carved parts of the pumpkin. It will serve as a protective layer that keeps moisture in and prevents the pumpkin from drying out and looking shriveled.

3. Give it a dip: And if your pumpkin starts to shrivel before the holiday? Maniac Pumpkin Carvers suggests reviving it with an ice bath with a capful of bleach added (just be sure to remove any lights or electronics before dunking). This quick dip helps deter mold growth and miraculously brings pumpkins back from the dead.

When Should You Carve Your Pumpkin?

With temperatures in the 70s and 80s, October can be a tricky month with regards to traditional seasonal outdoor decorations, namely carved pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. Carving too early in the month will lead to a moldy mess, however waiting too long makes your neighbors wonder about your dedication to the fun holiday and changing seasons. This leads to the question of “when is the ideal time to carve my pumpkin-based artwork?”

Unofficial studies have been done, however the climates of these experiments vary. In order to get an accurate idea of when to carve in Eastern Carolina, we would have to do our own localized experiment. Enter Randy, the experimental WITN jack-o-lantern. He was carved with a simple grin, complete with two eyes and a nose, a standard as far as jack-o-lanterns are concerned. He was placed outside the WITN studio under cover, but still very much exposed to the sun and wind.

Carving took place September 29th and each afternoon, Randy would get a check-up. The following is a complete diagnosis of Randy’s condition:
Day 1: Randy is looking fresh and happy, no signs of deterioration, dryness or mold.
Day 2: Dryness starting to occur around Randy’s teeth. Still bug and mold free.
Day 3: Dryness around mouth, eyes and nose has slightly worsened. Still bug and mold free.
Day 4: Discoloration around his mouth has started, eyes and nose still dry. No bugs or mold to be seen.
Day 5: Randy’s teeth have started to shrivel and discoloration has spread to eyes and nose. Dryness appears to be catching up with him. Bugs have started to make a home inside Randy’s smile. Small mold spots have started forming inside Randy’s head.
Day 6: Black rot and mold has spread quite a bit inside of Randy. There are far more bugs than on Day 5. Randy has started leaking out of the bottom of his head.
Day 7: The leaking has increased out of Randy, and the bugs are swarming. Mold is visible through his mouth.
Day 8: The cap to Randy’s head has collapsed. This is the end of Randy. Bugs are everywhere. When we attempted to lift Randy up, the bottom of his head gave out due to collected moisture inside the pumpkin.

It’s fair to say you can keep a pumpkin outside for slightly longer than 8 days due to Randy’s early carve date of September 29th, however temperatures haven’t fallen far enough to extend the life of carved pumpkins past 12 days. As far as bugs are concerned, if you light your pumpkin each night, they won’t be too much of an issue. One thing to note though, fire inside your pumpkin could lead to increased cap/lid shrinkage, causing it to collapse inside your pumpkin sooner than the 8 day period.

Optimal Carving Date For This Halloween:
We encourage that you carve your pumpkins about 5 days out from Halloween, just to be sure your doorstep artwork will be in good conditions when the trick-or-treaters come knocking. But if you’d like to carve sooner, a Sunday night carving session would be appropriate. Have a mold and bug free happy Halloween!


Don’t you hate it when you spend hours carving the perfect pumpkin, only to have it wilt and decay after a few days?

The average price of a pumpkin is $4.32, according to data from the Department of Agriculture in 2015, and that can really add up if you plan on decorating and carving multiple pumpkins this Halloween.

Once carved, pumpkins will generally only hold up for three to five days — or up to two weeks if you live in a colder climate — before wilting and showing signs of decay. And that’s not very long when you’ve worked so hard on your masterpiece.

So if you don’t want to waste money this Halloween, here are seven easy ways to make your jack-o’-lantern last even longer.

1. Don’t Cut Off the Top

Stop — don’t cut that top off your pumpkin quite yet.

Although tradition is to cut a hole at the top of your pumpkin before gutting and carving it, this is probably the worst thing you can do as far as the life of your pumpkin is concerned: Removing the stem of any fruit or vegetable will cut its life short. Instead, cut the back or even the bottom of the pumpkin out.

This way, any decay happening won’t start from the top and trickle down. Your pumpkin will keep fresh much longer if moisture can’t collect on the bottom and the stem stays intact.

2. Clean Your Pumpkin With Bleach

Be sure to completely clean out your pumpkin — leaving no guts, seeds or innards inside. Here’s how:

  • Cut a large opening in the bottom of your pumpkin, making sure you have enough room to reach your hands in.
  • Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to get all of the guts and seeds out.
  • Thoroughly scrape the inside and sides of the pumpkin to remove as much of the innards as possible.

“Once the pumpkin is gutted, clean out the insides with bleach and water,” said Amy Chang, lifestyle savings expert at SlickDeals.

Make a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water and use it to thoroughly clean out the pumpkin. Bleach helps kill bacteria and get rid of dirt, which will prevent the pumpkin from growing mold too quickly. Plus, the cleaner the pumpkin, the less quickly it will begin to rot.

3. Let the Pumpkin Dry Fully

After the pumpkin is completely gutted and cleaned with a bleach solution, be sure to let it dry fully before carving or setting it outside. If your pumpkin is still wet when you set it outside, mold is more likely to form. Here are some pumpkin drying tips:

  • Use a towel to dry out the inside of the pumpkin as well as you can.
  • Leave your pumpkin in a cool, well-ventilated area.
  • Don’t use a blow dryer to dry your pumpkin as the heat will accelerate the rotting process.
  • Don’t set your pumpkin outside to dry as the outside elements could also make it decay more quickly.
  • Use a fan set at low speed to help your pumpkin dry out more completely and quickly.

4. Use Vaseline

Once you’ve carved your pumpkin, put petroleum jelly around the carved edges as well as all around the inside to help keep it moisturized. This will ensure the pumpkin stays fresh for a longer amount of time. If you don’t have any Vaseline on hand, you can always try these other options:

  • WD-40
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

Or, use something to lock in the moisture, like:

  • Clear nail polish
  • Clear spray paint
  • White glue

5. Make Your Own DIY Pumpkin Spray

At this point, it might seem like your pumpkin has become pretty high-maintenance. But the key to keeping your pumpkin fresh longer is making sure it stays moisturized.

You can make a spray at home using soap, peppermint oil and water to help keep mold at bay. This is all you’ll need:

  • 8-ounce spray bottle
  • 1 capful liquid peppermint soap
  • 6 drops peppermint oil

Peppermint has anti-fungal properties, which will help keep fungus and mold away. Use this homemade spray on the inside, outside and especially around any carved edges of your pumpkin to help keep it moisturized.

Alternatively, if you’re not the DIY type, you could also buy some Pumpkin Fresh spray, online or at the store; it’s said to do wonders for all pumpkins.

6. Soak in Cold Water

Before you put your pumpkin out on display, or after it’s already been put out and has begun to shrivel, pamper your pumpkin with a bath — a cold bath. A quick ice water bath can breathe new life into your pumpkin, especially if it’s already started to wilt a little. Here are some pumpkin bath tips:

  • Fully submerge your pumpkin in ice cold water for one to two hours.
  • You have the option to add a small amount of bleach to the water to help kill any mold starting to form.
  • Remove the pumpkin from the ice water bath.
  • Apply more moisture using sprays, petroleum jelly or oil.
  • Set your newly revived pumpkin back on display.

7. Don’t Carve Your Pumpkin

This might sound odd, but it’s the best way to ensure your pumpkin stays the freshest. Instead of carving your pumpkin, you can still decorate it with glitter, googly eyes, yarn, construction paper and more. Or you can simply use markers to draw a face or design on your pumpkin. You can also wait until a day or two before Halloween to carve your pumpkin. That way, it’s sure to last through the holiday.

Now that you’re an expert, you can use these pumpkin-carving tips to prolong the life of your jack-o’-lantern this Halloween.

From 7 Ways to Make Your Halloween Pumpkin Last Longer


Pumpkins aren’t just a classic fall staple they are definitely an important fall pumpkin ‎decorations item for both Halloween and autumn. They’re what jack-o’-lanterns tradition ‎of carving pumpkins are made of! Nothing screams Halloween more than a classic ‎pumpkin carving designs of the carved Jack O’ Lantern. ‎Classic Jack Carving dates back for decades to the old ancient Celtic holiday, ‎Samhain festival. They used to carve pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns – that happy four-tooth ‎smile and a triangle nose. Classic Jack carving gives us a heritage look into the past ‎traditions of Halloween.‎

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to get new twists on the ‎traditional Jack O’ Lanterns and unique pumpkin display ideas for Halloween with ‎new and fresh pumpkin carving ideas, and to mention…the classic expression will ‎never get old. ‎ If you need one Jack O’ Lantern or a traditional Halloween carving patterns, to ‎impress or to add some sparkle decoration to your home for the cozy season; just scroll ‎down and check out these 50 Traditional easy pumpkin carvings Idea of free pumpkin ‎carving patterns . These free pumpkin stencils do guarantee epic pumpkin carvings ideas ‎that are FUN AND ORIGINAL DESIGNS. These free pumpkin carving ‎stencils, pumpkin patterns, and pumpkin template ideas that range ‎from easy pumpkin carving ideas to minimal carving ideas are easy to create for ‎beginners. The sky is the limit . . . There are silly, creepy, scary, funny, and angry jack o ‎lantern faces and other designs to help you use your imagination to add Halloween ‎cheer to your porch.‎


Method for carving your pumpkin;‎

The traditional way of carving a pumpkin is to hollow your pumpkin and then do your ‎carving design all through the outer gourd into the hollow center. Many other ‎methods of carving have been discovered lately that will minimize the carving process ‎involving less work with knives and allow your Halloween carved pumpkins to last longer. ‎You might find these methods extremely easy to use, so you can create something ‎awesome even if you’re a beginner A few popular carving options include:‎


• Carve a traditional jack-o’-lantern. Weather it was the classic design of Jack ‎O’ Lanterns- that has a happy four-tooth smile and a triangle nose the easiest ‎design to plan and to cut for beginners OR advanced pumpkin faces carving this ‎technique is intended to carve to the full depth. ‎


• Carve a silhouette. It is a simple alternative to the classic jack-o-lantern face; ‎Generally speaking, it is easier to make because there is less fine cutting.‎ Pick a shape and you cut out the background the “negative space” around the ‎character, then carve out features like eyes or a mouth to make the character ‎look back lit Keep in mind you don’t cut all the way through the wall of the ‎pumpkin! Only cut the design to a depth of about 5mm for a two-toned multi-‎dimensional effect. You’ll end up with a rounded circle of light much like the Moon ‎around the dark shape, with lighted details left out. On a dark night the candle ‎light ray will peek through the shallow portion for a really nice effect of the ‎Halloween carved pumpkins designs.‎


• Carve down to the pulp. You use this method when the aim of decoration is for a ‎daytime with no candle to light. The Halloween pumpkin ideas or jack-o’-lantern are ‎carved to scratch away the pumpkin skin, only to reveal the pulp. You never ‎carve or dive too deep all the way into the gourd.‎


Pumpkin patterns for kids; ‎

Pumpkin carving is a fun family activity not only for adult but kids too. This ‎Halloween tradition helps the creation of jack-o-lanterns ‎and raise their ‎inspiration to create a symbolic piece of Halloween decor. Halloween pumpkin ‎decorating ideas are one of the most beloved Halloween traditions for kids. ‎ Because Halloween is that one particular occasion to horror and terrifying ‎others using scary stuff of everyday items like; to do the effect. Pumpkins ‎ideas in the form of scary Halloween pumpkin carvings and pumpkin designs ‎using simple Halloween stencils are easy to ‎ create and awesome jack-o-lantern ‎designs for Halloween. Carved scary pumpkin faces ‎in the front or background ‎will scare your neighbors and trick-or-treaters.‎

How to Carve a Pumpkin;‎

Get ideas to get carving: While lots of pumpkin decorating ideas don’t require you ‎to ever pick up a knife at all. Pumpkins carved as jack-o’-lanterns have something magical, it ‎imitate us to celebrate fall evenings with homemade Halloween decorations. ‎Most of us love the pumpkin carving projects, this have taught them that it’s ‎much easier to make pumpkin stencils and pumpkin carving patterns they are interested in as ‎memorable designs when you start with a stencil. ‎So we found the easiest pumpkin patterns for carving … the polka-dots or whichever pattern ‎you would like to carve. They range from easy pumpkin carving faces to cool pumpkin carving ‎faces with clever emoticons, and easy-to-use free easy pumpkin carving patterns. ‎You’ll need pumpkin carving tools which consist of a carving knife, a spoon, a marker or ‎pencil, and a cordless drill.

Pumpkin carving kit differs according to the method for ‎carving your pumpkin.‎ Print the stencil of your choice, tape it to hold the pattern to the front of your ‎hollowed-out pumpkin after removing the pumpkin guts and scooped out all of the ‎seeds, and “trace” any of the various lantern patterns you’ve choose. Mark lines by ‎poking pinholes all along the edge of your design on the pumpkin using your marker ‎or pencil to transfer it. Then pull the paper off, and use a pencil to lightly connect the ‎dots then drill through the holes or carve over the pinhole lines, with your own ‎kitchen knives. And you’ll have a unique jack-o’-lantern ready for Halloween that ‎Will Make Your Neighbors and trick-or-treaters Insanely Jealous.‎
The possible pumpkin carving templates options in the Halloween pumpkin designs are endless, ‎and kids will love the chance to be creative. If you’re looking for some cool pumpkin ‎carving ideas that are really simple, checks out these easy pumpkin carving ideas.‎

See also some of our picks;

Creative Halloween Wedding Centerpiece Ideas For Autumn
30 Spooky Bedroom Décor Ideas With Subtle Halloween Atmosphere
The Extremely Cool Plus Size Halloween Costumes Ideas For Women Ever!‎
Halloween Holiday Traditions in Belgium
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70 Cool Easy (PUMPKIN CARVING) Ideas for Wonderful Halloween day
50 Great Halloween Fireplace Mantel Decorating Ideas‎
Halloween Makeup For Women – 60 Creepy Makeup Ideas‎
50 Awesome Halloween Indoors and Outdoor Decorating Ideas‎
Creepy Halloween Ideas, 50 Edible Decorations for Halloween Party Table
75 Cute And Cozy Rustic Fall And Halloween Décor Ideas‎
Elegant and Easy Thanksgiving Table Decorations Ideas ‎
50 Glorious DIY Autumn/ Halloween Decoration Ideas In Gold‎
‎60 Amazing Pumpkin Centerpieces And Glorious Fall Decorating ‎Ideas
‎77 Creative Pumpkin Crafts for Halloween and Fall Décor
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The History Behind Pumpkins and Halloween

Pumpkins are ripe and plentiful in the fall, just in time for Halloween. These big orange fruits are used in many ways. You might bring one home from a pumpkin patch or the grocery store and carve it into a jack-o’-lantern. Pumpkin is nutritious and good to eat. Pumpkins can also be used for decoration. Some people even have pumpkin-tossing contests. The history of pumpkins and their use at Halloween contains a mixture of interesting facts and Celtic folklore. Find out how the pumpkin replaced the turnip in the Halloween story and discover more ways to use pumpkins.

History of the Pumpkin

Pumpkins, which are a type of squash, were first found in the Americas, primarily in the area of Central America and Mexico. Native Americans carried pumpkin seeds into other parts of North America. They cut pumpkins into long strips and roasted them over a fire. They also wove dried strips of pumpkin into mats. The Native Americans ate pumpkin seeds and also used them for medicine. Columbus took pumpkin seeds back to Europe, but they did not grow well there. Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, found pumpkins in what is now part of Canada in 1584. He called them “pepons,” a Greek word that means “large melons.” Over time, the name was changed to “pumpkin.” When the colonists arrived in the U.S., they began using pumpkins for food, too. It was the influence of Irish immigrants, however, that made the pumpkin a part of Halloween.

The History of the Pumpkin

  • The History of the Pumpkins
  • Pumpkin: A Brief Historys
  • Pumpkin and Squash Species
  • Pumpkin and Squash Species
  • Growing Squash and Pumpkins in the Home Garden
  • Pumpkin History and Facts

History of the Jack-o’-Lantern

Early Irish immigrants to the U.S. brought the tradition of making a jack-o’-lantern at Halloween. According to Irish folklore, Jack was a blacksmith who had tricked the devil on several occasions. The story says that when Jack died, he was denied entrance into both heaven and hell. When the devil turned him away, he gave Jack a burning ember. Jack hollowed out a turnip to carry the ember and give him light. The Irish remembered this story each year by carving scary faces on turnips and placing a burning piece of coal inside. However, when the Irish immigrated to the U.S., they discovered that pumpkins were more readily available and made better jack-o’-lanterns than turnips. Eventually, candles replaced the burning coals. You might use a battery-operated candle or a flashlight inside your jack-o’-lantern today.

History of the Jack-o’-lantern

  • History of the Jack-o’-lantern
  • Turnip Battles With Pumpkin for Halloween
  • How Halloween is Celebrated in the United States
  • The American Halloween Tradition
  • Things to Know About Pumpkins

History of Pumpkin Carving

Over time, the practice of carving spooky faces on a pumpkin evolved into other forms of pumpkin-carving. The original idea of the jack-o’-lantern was to scare away evil spirits. The Irish would set the carved pumpkins or turnips by their doors and windows in hopes that they would protect them. Modern pumpkin-carving, though, is often done for entertainment. While carving faces onto the pumpkins is still popular, enthusiasts also carve different designs. Some organizations distribute patterns that members can use for pumpkin-carving. For example, students might use a pattern to carve the name or symbol of their school on a pumpkin. Pumpkin-carving contests and pumpkin-throwing contests are also popular at Halloween.

  • Halloween: History of Carving Pumpkins
  • The History of Pumpkin Carving
  • Tips for Pumpkin-Carving Safety
  • Pumpkin Patterns and Carving Instructions
  • How to Carve a Pumpkin

Popular Pumpkin Recipes

There are 30 varieties of pumpkin, but the one most commonly used for carving jack-o’-lanterns is the Connecticut field variety. The pulp of this variety is stringy and not the best for eating. A sweeter variety is preferred for baking. The colonists may have developed an early version of pumpkin pie by filling a hollowed-out pumpkin with a blend of spices, milk, and honey and then roasting it over hot ashes. Pumpkin is a source of potassium, vitamin A, and other nutrients. It can be used in pies, breads, cakes, cookies, soups, and other foods. There are about 500 seeds in a pumpkin, and these can be roasted or dried for eating. Pumpkin blossoms can also be used in recipes.

  • Breakfast Pumpkin Cookies Recipe
  • Halloween Recipes Using Pumpkin
  • Drying and Roasting Pumpkin Seeds
  • Pumpkin and Squash Blossom Recipes

Facts About Pumpkins

Not all pumpkins are orange. Some varieties yield white, tan, yellow, or even blue produce. Pumpkins come in a wide range of sizes, too. Miniature pumpkins weighing less than two pounds might be used in table centerpieces. Giant varieties can weigh more than a thousand pounds. While the common jack-o’-lantern pumpkin is round, there are varieties that are flat and other that are bumpy. Columbus had difficulty raising his pumpkin seeds in Europe, but pumpkins are now grown on all of the continents except Antarctica. At one time, people believed that pumpkins could be used to remove freckles and heal snake bites. Some people also believed that pumpkin could cure diarrhea and constipation in dogs and cats. These medicinal claims have been debunked, but there remain plenty of good uses for the pumpkin.

  • Pumpkin Colors and Varieties
  • Unusual Facts About Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin and Halloween Facts
  • Beyond the Jack-o’-Lantern
  • Pumpkin Varieties in the Southeast

Why Carved Pumpkins are a Symbol of Halloween

The tradition of carving faces into vegetables or fruits dates to the Celts.

Many centuries ago as the summer harvest came to an end, the Celtic people prepared for the dark of winter by building big bonfires in their fields. (Celts were people who predominantly lived in territories in western Europe—Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man).

They believed evil spirits lurked in the shadows around the bonfires, so they wanted light to guide their paths to and from the bonfires. The Celts carved faces on large turnips and then hollowed out the inside of the vegetable so a candle could sit within it. The light shining out through the carved faces scared away evil spirits. It also showed the way to their homes for the good spirits and for travelers.

Jack O’Lanterns

carved turnip

These carved vegetables were eventually called Jack O’Lanterns by the Irish who told a legend about a farmer named Jack who made a bargain with the devil that left him wandering the earth for all time.

Pumpkins in the New World

In 1584, French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America. He reported finding “gros melons.” “Pompions” became the term in English, which eventually became “pumpkin.”

When the immigrants arrived in America and found a bountiful supply of pumpkins, they soon adopted the pumpkin as the best fruit (and it is a fruit!) for carving Jack O’Lanterns.

Pumpkins belong to the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons, and zucchini. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.


To read the story about the tradition of Trick or Treating, .

To read about another iconic item for Halloween, click here: Candy Corn: The Story.

View sources “

The Real Reason People Carve Jack-O’-Lanterns for Halloween

A floating light. A ghost named Jack. An angry devil.

And… a pumpkin?

Though jack-o’-lanterns are now an American cultural icon of Halloween, their symbolism is quite recent — and the story of how they came to be is a complicated one.

The custom of carving a face into a pumpkin for Halloween is an American amalgamation of different European autumnal customs and an old piece of spooky folklore, explains Lesley Bannatyne, an author of five books on Halloween history, literature and culture.

Starting in the 1800s, Bannatyne says, countries in Northern Europe developed their own customs of carving faces into vegetables in the fall season. In Ireland and Scotland, for example, people would carve faces into turnips, and beets were used in other places as well. Though 19th century immigrants very well could have brought their vegetable-carving traditions to the U.S., Bannatyne says it was actually something else that really popularized the carving of a pumpkin: its potential as a prank.

Before Halloween was widely celebrated in the United States, kids started taking pumpkins — which were overwhelmingly plentiful during the months of September and October — and carving faces into them. After sticking a candle in the pumpkin to light it up, kids would run around, Bannatyne tells TIME, frightening people with the spooky-looking objects. The so-called “carved pumpkin trick” became so popular that there were even how-to articles printed in magazines as early as 1842.

Poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) described the practice in his poem “The Pumpkin”: “When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin, / Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!”

This growing popularity of the “carved pumpkin trick” happened to coincide with the country’s rising interest in Halloween itself, Bannatyne says. The end of the Civil War also brought an increased cultural interest in ghosts. “So many men went missing in the Civil War, so you didn’t know whether your loved one was alive or dead,” Bannatyne says. Meanwhile, as the curiosity surrounding death grew, so too did the number of immigrants coming to the United States, which gave an extra appeal to the notion of a new American holiday that everyone could celebrate together.

“Holidays were one way we had, as a culture, to put everybody on the same page,” Bannatyne explains.

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So, where did the name Jack come from? There are a few steps in this story, and the etymology of “jack-o’-lantern” is almost unrelated to its modern meaning and tradition.

According to one prominent theory, the “Jack” in question is the subject of an old folktale. The story, which has several different iterations, can be traced back to as long ago as 1551, Bannatyne says, and is quite sinister indeed. Often called “Stingy” Jack, he spends much of his life tricking the devil. In many versions of the story, the frustrates the devil so much that upon his death, he is locked out from the gates of Hell. The devil leaves Jack with nothing other than a burning piece of coal, and Jack wanders aimlessly for the rest of eternity: just a ghost and his floating light.

“Jack of the lantern,” according to that version of the history, became “Jack-o’-Lantern.”

Based on Jack’s tale, there remains a bit of irony in his pumpkin’s symbolic ability for bringing people together. And the pumpkin itself was a rather sinister vegetable historically, Bannatyne writes. In fact, European art from the 16th century used the pumpkin as a symbol for North American “untamed wilderness,” as she explains.

But still, the story of Jack and his lantern has nothing to do with a pumpkin.

It was only after 19th century Americans saw the connection between the legend and the spookily lit-up carved pumpkins they were creating that the two came to be seen as connected. By the early 20th century, carved pumpkins had adopted the name we now use.

Like all good legends, the tale of Stingy Jack was born from some truth, as a medieval explanation for the “flame-like phosphorescence caused by gases from decaying plants in marshy areas,” as Merriam-Webster’s dictionary puts it. Despite scientific explanations for these flashes, “marsh lights” held their sinister air of mystery for hundreds of years, inspiring even more stories of how they were related to the dead, Bannatyne says.

It’s no surprise then that each aspect of the journey to the jack-o’-lantern as we know it — the legend of Stingy Jack, marsh lights and the carved pumpkin trick — carries a certain air of mystery. After all, the carved pumpkin has evolved into the modern icon of the one holiday dedicated to fright.

Write to Rachel E. Greenspan at [email protected]

One of many traditions is to pick pumpkins for Halloween! Here are 5 tips on how to pick the perfect pumpkin for carving.

Picking a Pumpkin for Carving

Whether you’re visiting the pumpkin patch or perusing the produce section, it’s always fun to find that “perfect” pumpkin. Here are 5 easy tips for selecting a winner! 

  1. Look for a pumpkin that has a deep orange color.
  2. Knock on the pumpkin to check that it is hollow (and therefore ripe).
  3. Make sure the bottom of the pumpkin isn’t soft and mushy! Also, the bottom should be flat so it doesn’t roll.
  4. Check that the stem is firm and secure. Never pick a pumpkin up from the stem! It may break, which leads to faster decay.
  5. Avoid bruised pumpkins and look for a smooth surface if you’re carving. It will be much easier!

Harvesting Your Own Pumpkin

Growing your own pumpkins this year? Know how and when to harvest them correctly:

  • Your best bet is to harvest pumpkins when they are mature. They will keep best this way. Do not pick pumpkins off the vine because they have reached your desired size. If you want small pumpkins, buy a small variety.
  • If you are harvesting your own pumpkin, harvest on a dry day after the plants have died back and the skins are hard.
  • To slow decay, leave an inch or two of stem on pumpkins and winter squash when harvesting them
  • Here’s how to properly cure and store your pumpkins so it lasts longer!
  • See our free Pumpkin Growing Guide with tips on when to harvest;

The big yellow pumpkins will soon come handy to give the cows.
They help out the fall feed, and if there is anything better for cows in milk we should like to know it.
–The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Carving the Pumpkin

We like to pick a large pumpkin for easy carving, but also pick some small pumpkins for decorating your outside door or bringing inside the home as accents!

For those smaller pumpkins, look for some character—bumps, wart, and funny shapes!

Ready to carve that pumpkin? See simple pumpkin-carving tips and tricks and also some more complex pumpkin-carving tips.

More Pumpkin Fun

Here are more related articles that you might find interesting:

  • How to cook pumpkin, plus great pumpkin recipes.
  • Pumpkin spice mix to add to recipes or sprinkle inside your carved pumpkin.

Seven tips for finding the best pumpkins at the patch


The best pumpkins have hard, strong stems and no soft spots.

ALBANY – Do you know how to pick the best pumpkin this fall?

With Halloween just weeks away, Stephen Reiners, a professor or horticulture at Cornell University and vegetable expert, said there are key things to look for when choosing the best pumpkin this year.

And this is a great year for it, Reiners said: Recent weather makes this an ideal year for pumpkins.

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PUMPKINS: Where you can pick your own in the Hudson Valley​

“What started off as kind of a scary pumpkin season, in terms of what we might get, really turned around by mid-to-late August — when we got a lot of warm dry temperatures day after day, and a lot of sun and heat and cooler nights,” Reiners told the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau.

“And that really helped ripen the pumpkins up and turn them a beautiful shade of orange.”

The dry weather, he added, also “helped in terms of keeping diseases down. They’re not soft. They’re looking excellent.”

So when you’re out looking for the best pumpkin, here’s seven tips to keep in mind, according to Reiners:

A hard sturdy stem

A soft or loose stem might be a clue that the pumpkin could be prone to rotting.

A green stem means the pumpkin has been freshly picked.

Tan or brown stems mean the pumpkin was harvested at least a few days ago.

Avoid the soft spots

Soft spots are a bad sign.

This could indicate that excess moisture or insects have gotten into the pumpkin and caused rot or mold.

And that means it shortens the time the pumpkin will look good sitting on your front porch.

Check for an uneven pumpkin

Before carving this year’s jack-o-lantern, try placing your pumpkin on a flat surface to see if it is going to roll.

Pumpkins with a flat bottom will be more likely to stand upright.

And that means they will stay in place when you put them on display.

Patience with the carving

Don’t rush to carve your pumpkin just yet.

A pumpkin will start to rot about a week after it’s carved.

So with Halloween still more than two weeks away, it might be a little early to clean it out.

Buying a pumpkin now and leaving it whole should last several weeks, and may still look all right through Thanksgiving — that’s if you can resist carving it.

Ripe is a matter of opinion

It’s OK to pick a pumpkin that’s not totally ripe.

Pumpkins continue to ripen and will get more orange after they are picked.

So choosing a lighter colored pumpkin now may result in a perfect deep orange pumpkin by Halloween.

Go small when baking

Pumpkins for carving are different from pumpkins for baking.

Larger pumpkins that are grown to be carving pumpkins are too stringy and can taste bitter. They have been grown for decoration and not eating.

Smaller pumpkins, sometimes called pie pumpkins, that weigh between four and six pounds are grown specifically for cooking and baking. So they have a better texture, and taste better as food.

Bumpy is fine

Like a bumpy pumpkin? Go for it.

When choosing a pumpkin to carve, people often overlook pumpkins and gourds with hardened bumps and bruises.

But beauty should be in the eye of the pumpkin picker.

The bumps do not affect the pumpkin and can add a unique spooky effect to your Halloween decor.

The fresher the pumpkin you bring home, the longer your jack o’lantern will last. This is one of the reasons I’ve strayed away from purchasing my carving pumpkins at the grocery store and opted instead for pumpkins from a pick-your-own patch.

However, even at the farm, not all pumpkins have the same shelf life. There are a few telltale signs of a healthy pumpkin you should look for this fall.

Pumpkins with lighter orange skin are easier to carve because the skin is not a hard as the darker orange pumpkins. However, the darker orange pumpkins have tougher skin and will last longer.

Picking pumpkins that feel heavier than they look is beneficial because it means they have more flesh and thicker skin. Although that means more scooping it also means your pumpkin will dehydrate slower, prolonging its life.3

Stem length
You can tell how healthy the pumpkin is by looking at its stem. A strong sturdy stem is a good sign of a healthy pumpkin, whereas a brittle, thin stem that breaks off or no stem at all can indicate that the pumpkin was stressed for water and nutrients. Pumpkins without a stem won’t last long and those with soft stems may have already started to rot.

4Skin appearance
It’s important to choose a pumpkin with firm, spot free skin. Soft spots are early signs of rot and holes and cuts will generally rot sooner. However, it’s ok to choose a pumpkin that’s not fully ripe as it will continue to ripen even after it’s harvested.5

Always make sure to inspect the bottom of your pumpkin before taking it home. You want to avoid pumpkins with soft bottoms as it’s an indicator of early rot. You should also be sure to select a pumpkin with a flat bottom, so your jack o’lantern will stand upright.

Related content

  • How to make my Jack O’Lantern last longer
  • How to pick the perfect pumpkin, gourd or squash
  • How to grow pumpkins: 7 tips
  • Ask Jen about pumpkins
  • Here’s the scoop on cooking and baking with pumpkin
  • Pumpkin season: Picking, cooking and preserving fall’s favorite fruit
  • Prolong the life of decorative pumpkins, gourds and squash in five simple steps
  • Pumpkin decorating ideas for Halloween


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