It is is that time of year again!  Yep, the one where we engage in the slimy, dreadful job of scooping out the inside of the pumpkin to make the seasonal Jack-o-Lanterns.

“What?!” you say incredulously! “I love the smell of the pumpkins and collecting the seeds for toasting, roasting and eating!”

Well, I love the roasted seeds too, and I thrill in lighting up the pumpkins on our side porch– but I loathe/hate/get queasy over the insides and the cool gush of the stringy orange-yellow membrane. If we are lucky, we may be able to pass of this task to our children.

My girls admittedly love it. Yes, the make faces and squeal – but they have fun and the proof is in the pictures. All my funny distastes aside, pumpkin carving IS a fun activity and a great tradition that everyone can get participate in.

As soon as the weather turns cold and I invariable show up at home with several over-sized pumpkins, my girls start to ask: “When can we carve the pumpkins? Is it time yet? Can we do it tonight?”

As we know that most Americans carve pumpkins, and that it is a widely engaged-in tradition, we don’t need to tell you HOW to do it: Instead, we have a few tricks up our sleeves that are worth sharing with you to keep your lanterns looking fresh and spooky.

1.) Keep your pumpkins fresh! Even before you carve, freshness starts with selection. Choose clean, blemish free squash with the stems still intact.  We have made the mistake of thinking that a small “bruise” would not hurt the pumpkin and have watched said “bruise” turn into a larger spreading blight that makes for a soft moldy inside. Pumpkins should be firm and feel weighty. A large, light-for-its weight squash could be very dry.

2.) Keep them cool. Like all fruits, vegetables and frothy beverages, keeping them cool keeps them from spoiling.  We are lucky that in New England, we can carve up 2 weeks in advance of Halloween. Nighttime temperatures range from the 30s to low 40s; ideal for pumpkin preservation. If you are not so fortunate to live in the northeast and want to maximize the life of your creations, store the Jack-o-Lanterns in a cool part of your garage or in an extra fridge while they are not on display. (They do take up a lot of space so the kitchen fridge is usually not an option.)

3. Shine them up. Once your pumpkins are carved, you can run a light layer of petroleum jelly around the carved surfaces to keep the detail work mold and rot free.  Thoroughly dry the surfaces and use your fingers or a Q-tip to spread the jelly.  The petroleum jelly acts as a barrier, and while does not prevent the eventuality of aging, it does help to keep those pesky dots of mold away a bit longer. While we know many people who enjoy the again pumpkin process, nothing is worse that watching hard-won carved teeth turn to funky, squashy nubs before their time. Have fun, Happy Spooky Merry-making and enjoy your Halloween!

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