What's Halloween without a carved pumpkin?
It's not too early to start planning for the occasion. Check out these tips and tricks for selecting the right tool, keeping a carved pumpkin fresh and adding the right illumination.
Pumpkin-Carving Tool Options:
A serrated knife works well for creating a hole in the pumpkin. It's preferable to carve the hole in the bottom of the pumpkin to cut off any bumps so the pumpkin will sit level. It's also much easier to place the pumpkin over a light source rather than lowering the light, like a candle, into the pumpkin.
A large metal spoon or ice-cream scoop is great for removing pumpkin seeds. Another option is a battery-operated spinner that's made specifically for scraping the insides of the pumpkin walls.
Small, paring knives are great for carving designs into the pumpkin. Pumpkin-carving kits, made specifically for kids or adults, are another good source. Battery-operated, pumpkin-carving knives also make quick work of even intricate designs.
Tips for Preserving a Carved Pumpkin:
Mold and dehydration are the two main contributors to pumpkin rot. Prevent both by covering the carved areas and interior of pumpkin with petroleum jelly. This will keep the pumpkin from drying out and will slow the growth of mold.
Another option is to add a small amount of bleach to a spray bottle filled with water. Spray the pumpkin daily with the bleach mixture; the bleach fights mold while the water keeps the pumpkin from drying out too quickly.
Spray the pumpkin with a store-bought pumpkin-preservation spray. Make sure that it is environmentally friendly and nontoxic. Note: Even with these precautions, a cut pumpkin will only last for a few days to a week, so it's best to cut your pumpkin no earlier than a few days before your Halloween festivities.
Illuminating the Pumpkin:
The candle-free options are nearly endless for showcasing your pumpkin designs. Check stores for color-changing strobe lights, battery-operated tea lights and rainbow LEDs that are made specifically for pumpkins and are safe for use in fresh or foam pumpkins. Battery-operated tap lights are a great option for a small pumpkin or gourd or use several in a larger pumpkin.
If the pumpkin will be displayed near an outlet, a string of Christmas lights or a small lamp can be used.
The final choice is candles, the old standby. Votive or pillar candles, placed on a plate that is large enough to catch any drips, are the best option. A good tip when illuminating a pumpkin with a candle is to cut a small hole in the top of the pumpkin, like a chimney, allowing the heat to escape. Note: Candles can only be used in fresh pumpkins; never place a lit candle inside a foam pumpkin.
Speaking of safety, a general reminder: Always exercise due caution whenever fire is involved.