Picking pumpkins at one’s local pumpkin patch can be a great family activity, no matter one’s reason for picking pumpkins.
There are many different varieties of pumpkins.
Some grow to weigh hundreds of pounds, while others are best carved, decorated, or eaten as pie.
Before picking pumpkins, people have to consider their intended goal and purpose for the pumpkin.
They will have to prioritize a pumpkin’s flavor and texture if they plan to cook it.
On the other hand, they’d typically have to prioritize a pumpkin’s looks if they plan to carve it.
Either way, the best pumpkins are those picked fresh from a farm. Even then, however, not all pumpkins are made equal.
There are thick pumpkins, thin pumpkins, tall pumpkins, and even ugly pumpkins. Here’s the most foolproof way to pick the perfect pumpkin for any purpose.
Picking a pumpkin for carving
A person can carve any pumpkin, but there are general characteristics one should look out for before picking a pumpkin from a patch.
1. Examine the shell
The pumpkin’s shell should be firm but also soft enough to be carved.
If the pumpkin’s body is too hard, one might have difficulty using a knife to pierce it, posing a hazard to them and the rest of the family.
Next, one must feel the rest of the pumpkin and determine if there are any soft spots.
Soft parts of pumpkin may mean that its insides are already rotting; one should avoid pumpkins with these characteristics.
Tapping the pumpkin’s shell also helps determine how hollow it is and if its walls are too thick for carving.
More massive pumpkins usually have thicker walls, which are difficult to carve.
However, this can be addressed by shaving the inner walls of the pumpkin before cutting.
2. Look at the surface
Some pumpkins may have brown spots or holes, indicating the presence of bugs.
Defects of any size should cause alarm, as even marks as small as a coin could mean that bugs have made their way into the pumpkin.
Frost damage is also a concern in some places, so pumpkins with dull-colored stems should be avoided.
Both bugs and frost damage can considerably shorten pumpkins’ shelf life.
Color should also play a role in one’s pumpkin-picking.
Although pumpkins come in a host of different colors, pumpkins that are typically orange should be orange.
If a section of the pumpkin is a different color, that may be a bad sign.
3. Think about shape and size
Misshapen pumpkins don’t offer as many seeds as round or oval pumpkins.
While some people prefer to carve round pumpkins, oval or oblong pumpkins are easier to cut.
It’d be best to choose a pumpkin with a flat bottom as well so that it can sit well once carved and displayed.
Do not ignore smaller pumpkins either, as children love them!
One part of the pumpkin often ignored is the stem. Pumpkins should have sturdy stems of a dark green or black color.
4. Pick one for fun
Pumpkins for carving don’t have to look smooth and perfect. Sometimes, a pumpkin with a bumpy shell adds to the overall feel of one’s decor.
The perfect pumpkin is one with which the family will have fun!
Picking a pumpkin for cooking
Some pumpkin patch owners divide their patch into spaces for “Pie Pumpkins” and “Carving Pumpkins” to make pumpkin-picking easier for customers.
The main difference is that pie pumpkins have more filling on the inside for cooking.
One shouldn’t be afraid to go for small pumpkins with a softshell. Around four to eight pounds heavy, smaller pumpkins typically have a higher sugar content and a thicker, smooth surface.
Pumpkins with a dull color also don’t have to be avoided, considering that pumpkin flesh gets sweeter over time.
However, pumpkins with brown spots or bruises are best left out of the kitchen.
Many pumpkin varieties nowadays have names based on how they taste or should be cooked.
For instance, the Small Sugar Pumpkin is excellent for pies, but this shouldn’t discourage anyone from exploring other pumpkin varieties.
Harvesting and storing pumpkins
Everyone should follow a few guidelines, whether one is just harvesting pumpkins from a local patch or their backyard.
1. Pick them when they are mature
Pumpkins that have matured are those whose vines have already begun to dry and whose shells have already turned the right color.
It isn’t right to harvest pumpkins just because they have reached a specific size or color.
If one desires tiny pumpkins, it would be better to acquire pumpkins of that variety.
An excellent way to check for a ripe pumpkin is by scratching the shell with one’s fingernail.
If the fingernail does not easily pierce the pumpkin, it is mature.
If the fingernail damages the surface, this means that the pumpkin isn’t ready and will likely not last through short-term storage.
2. Don’t carry pumpkins by their stems
If the stem breaks off, it will expose the inside of the pumpkin and hasten its decay.
It may be tempting to hold the stem like a handle, but the pumpkin should be carried in one’s arms instead.
3. Keep it cool
One should keep at least an inch of the stem on the pumpkin before clipping it off for harvest to slow the pumpkin’s decay while in storage.
One way to keep pumpkins fresh is by keeping them someplace cool, either indoors or outdoors.
It will last for a few months, as long as it doesn’t get frost damage.
Though pumpkin owners don’t have to clean the fruit, one should wipe it with some bleach water to prevent the fruit from rotting.