Six tricks to help you bring home a flawless pumpkin.
Pumpkin Patch
Credit: Kenny Hung Photography / Getty Images

Between babies taking pictures with pumpkins and the rich colors of the season, it's easy to agree that the pumpkin patch is fall's ultimate playground. But, after you've captured an Instagram-worthy snap of your pup frolicking with giant gourds, you just might need a little help selecting a pumpkin worth cooking or carving.

Before grabbing the first colorful stem you see, it's helpful to decide how you'll use your pumpkin. If you're carving a Jack O'Lantern, look for a pumpkin with flat walls and have a design in mind. You'll want a pumpkin shape that suits your stencil. If you're creating a seasonal display for your porch or table, choose a variety of pumpkin colors and sizes. Pumpkin cooks will want to select a variety that's meant for the kitchen. Smaller pumpkins weighing between 4-8 pounds often have a higher sugar content and denser flesh that's better for cooking.

Want more specifics? Follow these simple pumpkin picking tricks to snag the perfect pick for your pumpkin pie or fall porch display.

Pay Attention to Size and Shape

For a jaw-dropping Jack O'Lantern design, you'll want to make sure your pumpkin shape and carving plan coordinate. Oval or round pumpkins tend to carve easier and give you more canvas to play with. If you're using a stencil, bring it along to make sure it fits on the pumpkin you select. Also, look for a pumpkin with flat walls and less ribs for easy carving. For cooking, smaller is better.

Inspect the Skin

Take a gander at the exterior of the pumpkin. You don't want to bring a pumpkin with brown spots home. It could mean bugs have chewed on your choice. Avoid other damage like cuts or mold. These signs of spoiling mean your pumpkin's shelf life may be short.

Consider Color

Pumpkins come in all sorts of shades, but some colors are better for carving or cooking than others. Older pumpkins will have a duller color, which is fine for cooking but not for carving or seasonal décor. Minor discoloration on a pumpkin is okay for carving, but spots of green on a mostly orange pick may mean something isn't right. For seasonal displays, go for a mix of colors to create some fun fall contrast.

Stay Away from Soft Spots

While your selection may look flawless at first glance, be sure to check for soft spots on the sides and bottom. You want a pumpkin that is firm all over. Mushy sections may mean the pumpkin is decaying on the inside, which is not something you want to find out come Jack O'Lantern design or pumpkin cooking time.

Scope Out the Stem

The greener the stem, the more likely it's a fresh pick. Look for a stem that's solidly attached and will be strong enough to help you pick the pumpkin up.

Gauge Thickness

Softly knock on your pumpkin to check thickness. If you're going to be carving, you'll want a pumpkin that sounds hollow and is easier to cut into. For cooking, thicker walls are best.

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All in all, if the little one is lusting over one specific pumpkin, you know it's the one. Have fun, and happy pumpkin picking!