How to pick a perfect pumpkin
By Lisa Crockett
‘Tis the season for all things pumpkin. Whether you are hankering for a luscious pie or a toothy jack-o’-lantern, here are tips for getting the very best this season:
• Pumpkins for pie and pumpkins for carving are grown from different varieties, so make sure you’re getting the right one for the purpose you want it to serve. “For pie pumpkins, you want to look for smaller varieties, just a little bigger than a softball. They have more sugar and are sweeter. For jack-o’-lanterns, you will want to go with a medium to large orange variety; the ‘wolf’ variety has a nice, large stem and is a popular choice for carving,” according to Rachelle Wegele, operations manager at Anderson Farms in Erie – which sells more than 70 different varieties of pumpkins and squash.
• All squashes, including pumpkins, have a long shelf life and can be stored for several months in a cool, dry place. When you purchase a pumpkin, inspect it for bruises or cuts and choose one that is firm and free of any soft spots. The stem should be firmly attached and sturdy. Once you carve a jack-o’-lantern, it has just a few days before it starts to decay, so don’t pull out the carving tools too soon.
• Use an artist’s eye. Sure a smooth, perfect surface might seem like the ideal, but a wrinkly spot or lopsided appearance can be used to great advantage when creating witches and goblins. Think about unusual pumpkin and squash varieties to round out a fall display. “We have lots of colors,” said Wegele. “We have orange, pink, green and red, and we also have lots of different textures. We drop a mixture of seeds throughout our pumpkin patch; there are lots to choose from.”
• Look on the tool bench, not in the kitchen, for carving supplies. Drill bits and small saws are often the best way to cut through a pumpkin’s tough exterior.
• Use a “claw” tool, a plaster scraper or an ice cream scoop to remove the pulp from your pumpkin, carving part of the way into the flesh.
• Once your pumpkin is carved, spread a little Vaseline on the cut surfaces to keep them from drying out quickly in the chilly Colorado night air.
• Safety first! Candles look great inside a jack-o’-lantern, but open flame on the front porch isn’t always a great idea. Battery operated votive candles are available at craft and discount stores, or cut a small hole in the back of your pumpkin and cluster a small string of white holiday lights inside of your pumpkin.
• Recipes abound for from-scratch pumpkin creations, often with the suggestion of using last night’s porch décor as the basis of tonight’s dessert. Carving pumpkins will usually produce watery, stringy results, though, so it’s best to simply toss that jack-o’-lantern on the compost heap.
For more information on Anderson Farms Fall Festival, which runs through the end of the month, visit www.andersonfarms.com.