Picking out those pumpkins

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

With the colorful fall season already upon us, and Halloween just a few weeks away, area residents are in the midst of picking or purchasing pumpkins either for decoration around the house, business, or office, or for future Halloween carving of jack-o-lanterns.

Some people prefer to gather the largest pumpkins they can handle, while others tend to prefer the smaller, easier to handle, "basketball- or volleyball-sized" pumpkins. Which ever, each fall these colorful, orange fruits of the vines of the gourd family are a traditional, fun, durable, decorative item for young and old alike.

Here are some timely tips for selecting the perfect pumpkin for your needs:

*Look over and touch the pumpkin to make sure it is not bruised, nicked, cut, or has soft spots.

*Look for a stem. Besides making a good handle to lift the jack-o-lantern's lid, an intact stem keeps bacteria out for a longer-lasting pumpkin.

*Uniform orange color indicates a healthy pumpkin. Bright orange is traditional, but they also come in white and blue.

*The more round pumpkins remain the most popular because they make the classic jack-o-lantern look. However, odd shapes and sizes can spark creativity and cause passers-by to do double takes.

*Once cut in to, your jack-o-lantern will start to deteriorate, so carve it no more than one week ahead of Halloween. If you plan to turn the pumpkin "meat" into a pie, carve it on Halloween, or the day before.

*After selecting your pumpkin(s) at the patch or market, do not carry them by the stem as oftentimes the weight of the pumkin will cause the stem to break off, making it more difficult to assist as the lid handle on your jack-o-lantern.

*And when the pumpkin/jack-o-lantern starts to soften and rot, throw it away immediately.

Happy picking!