It’s alive!!! There’s nothing scarier than a zombie pumpkin rotting away on your front porch — especially before Halloween arrives. Keep the “gourd” times rolling throughout the spooky season by following these simple pumpkin carving tips.
How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin
Not all pumpkins are alike. Whether you’re visiting your local pumpkin patch or grocery store, look for a pumpkin that’s ripe and ready to be carved. Telltale signs of a “perfect pumpkin” include hard, unblemished skin, and a firm, secure stem. Beware of pumpkins with soft spots, bruises, brittle stems, or cracks.
Carve Pumpkins with Caution
Save the screams for scary movie night with the family — not pumpkin carving time. Keep sharp carving tools away from young children; instead, let them be in charge of drawing the design or scooping out the seeds and fibers (a.k.a., the “pumpkin brains”), leaving carving duty in your hands (literally).
The American Society for Surgery of the Hand also recommends using short, controlled cuts away from your body to help avoid carving-related injuries.
Bonus tip: If your little assistant is preschool age, remove most of the seeds yourself and then have them finish the job. Otherwise, be prepared to set aside several hours as they pull out each and every seed one at a time. It’s lots of fun to watch at first, but holding a pumpkin in place gets old pretty quickly.
How to Keep Carved Pumpkins Alive Longer
Generally, carved pumpkins look their scary (or cute) best for a week before the elements and natural process of decay set in.
Help prevent mold and bacteria from invading your spooky creation before its time to shine by giving it a quick bath in chlorine bleach!
Step 1: After you’ve finished removing all of the “pumpkin brains” and the design is carved out, soak the pumpkin in a bleach solution of 4 teaspoons of bleach for every 3 gallons of water. You can use a utility sink or 5-gallon bucket, whichever is most convenient and appropriately sized for your pumpkin. Bleach acts as a preserving agent, killing mold and other decay-causing microorganisms on the pumpkin.
Step 2: Let the carved pumpkin soak for two minutes, rotating it so that the bleach solution comes into contact with all sides, including the stem top. Then air dry on a towel outside or in a well-ventilated space.
Step 3: As an alternative or in addition to soaking your carved pumpkin in the bleach solution, fill a spray bottle with 1/2 teaspoon of bleach to one quart of water, and spray daily to help prolong its life.