If autumn were a school play, a pumpkin would be the star. From Halloween until Thanksgiving, pumpkin-themed tablescapes, decorations, and recipes dominate our homes. Many Americans flock to pumpkin patches in search of the perfect carving pumpkin with their families. Others sift through large bins at the grocery store or roadside stand to find the main ingredient for pumpkin recipes. When harvesting or purchasing the best pumpkin it is important to recognize the signs of ripeness and consider its purpose – will it be used primarily as decoration or as an ingredient in a fall recipe?
Harvesting a Pumpkin
Try pressing a fingernail into the skin. A ripe pumpkin will have a rough exterior. If the nail leaves an indentation, the pumpkin needs a little more time to ripen. Also, check the vine. If it is dry, brown, or peeling away at the stem of the pumpkin, it is ready to separated from its nutrition source.
Buying the Right and Best Pumpkin
When sorting through pumpkins that have already been harvested, check the stem and the skin. Remember, the longer the stem, the better and its skin should be hard. Try knocking on the exterio, it should sound hollow like a ripe watermelon.
Be sure not to carry the pumpkin by the stem. It is not a handle, although it may seem convenient. Remember, those stems help keep those pumpkins fresh and healthy.
Carving or Cooking the Pumpkin?
It’s nice to have your garden lights, but at Halloween, a lantern is a must have! For decorating jack-o-lantern faces, it is just a matter of preference.
Generally, bigger pumpkins with a good stem are great for carving and will not rot as quickly.
For tablescapes and other indoor decorations, miniature varieties of pumpkins may also be a good option.