Wait, You’re Probably Carving Your Pumpkins Way Too Early
Here’s how to make them last until Halloween.
This article originally appeared on Real Simple
While it may be tempting to show off your impressive carved pumpkin throughout October, it’s not the best idea if you want your masterpiece to survive until Halloween. Especially considering the unseasonably warm weather in many parts of the country, leaving a jack-o’-lantern out in the sun will cause it to decay quickly. If a rotten pumpkin isn’t the type of Halloween trick you had in mind, follow this advice from a couple pumpkin pros.
The best time to pick a pumpkin is within a week of when you plan to carve it, recommends Marc Evan of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. “Look for a large pumpkin, heavy for its size, with unblemished skin,” says Evan. And be sure to avoid the telltale sign of an older pumpkin: a dry, brittle stem. Look for a fresh, green stem that’s about three to five inches long. “You can tell when a pumpkin is ready to harvest when its skin hardens,” says Sarah Perreault, senior editor at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The best test is to press your fingernail into the flesh. If it’s difficult to do, the pumpkin is ready, but if you can pierce it easily, it’s not ripe yet. Finally, avoid any gourds with visible blemishes, cracks, or soft spots. “Be sure to check the bottom of the pumpkin, too,” says Perreault.
Once you’ve picked your pumpkin, how you store it will determine how long it lasts. “Store in a cool, dry bedroom (under the bed is good), or in a cellar or root cellar—anywhere with a temperature around 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” advises Perreault. Resist the temptation to show off your pumpkin on the stoop or in a sunny window, where the warm temperature will cause it to decay quickly. If you can’t stand the idea of an empty stoop this fall, buy some pumpkins to leave on display outdoors and hide those you intend to carve indoors, out of direct sunlight.
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So, how long before All Hallows’ Eve should you start working your DIY magic? According to the experts, the later you carve, the better. “Carve no more than three days before Halloween,” Evan recommends. Luckily, with the 31st landing on a Tuesday this year, you can carve your pumpkins on the weekend and they’ll still look fantastic when trick-or-treaters arrive.
If you absolutely must carve your pumpkin earlier, you can extend its life by keeping it wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated when not on display. And if your pumpkin starts to shrivel before the holiday? Maniac Pumpkin Carvers suggests reviving it with an ice bath with a capful of bleach added (just be sure to remove any lights or electronics before dunking). This quick dip helps deter mold growth and miraculously brings pumpkins back from the dead.