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Carvers, grab your scoopers.

Grace Haynes

Prep your home for trick-or-treaters with a display of carved pumpkins. There’s no better way to kick-start the Halloween season than with trips to the pumpkin patch or festive carving parties. By late October, front porch displays around the neighborhood will by glowing with frightening orange faces and ghouls with toothy grins.

Before you start carving, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve picked a good pumpkin. Pass on buying any gourds with soft spots or signs of premature rot. Another good rule of thumb for creating eye-catching pumpkin displays is to avoid carving too early. A jack-o’-lantern’s average lifespan is about a week, so keep that in mind when planning Halloween decorations. Come All Hallows Eve, you don’t want trick-or-treaters to be greeted by droopy, rotten pumpkins surrounded by swarms of flies.

The biggest mistake you can make when carving a pumpkin is not scraping out every bit of pulp. Even the tiniest remnants of remaining pulp will attract flies and accelerate the rotting process, shortening its already short lifespan. Be extra diligent when scooping out pumpkin guts. We like using an ice-cream scooper, which can be more efficient than a spoon; or you might want to buy a pumpkin carving kit with special tools for scraping the insides and decorating the outside. After de-pulping your pumpkin, rub the edges and inside with petroleum jelly or vegetable oil. This will help with preserving and locking in moisture. Read this article for ways to prevent your jack-o’-lantern from rotting.

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Another mistake made when pumpkin carving? Not saving the seeds! Some of the best fall recipes can be made with pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas). You can roast them with the shell or without. Both make excellent additions to baked goods, salads, and more. Or pop a handful of roasted seeds in your mouth for a nutritious, flavor-packed snack.