Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
October, 2000
Regional Report

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Elena's designing her pumpkin's face before using her carving tools to create a masterpiece.

Halloween Pumpkins

Late October at the Nardozzi house means one thing - Halloween. Even though my daughter Elena is getting older and would rather hang out with her friends and score candy than help decorate the house and yard, one activity she still does enjoy is carving pumpkins.

The Halloween Tradition

Carving jack-o'-lanterns is an ancient ritual. They were used to scare off evil spirits on All Hallows' Eve (October 31). Traditionally, winter squash and turnips were used as jack-o'-lanterns to light a traveler's way. Now pumpkins have replaced these less glamorous vegetables as the cucurbit of choice for Halloween carving and decorating.

Picking the Perfect Pumpkin

Not all pumpkins are great for carving. I like growing the naked, seeded varieties such as 'Trick or Treat' more for their thin-hulled seeds for roasting than the size and shape of the pumpkin for carving. The seeds pop like popcorn when roasted, making for a tasty and nutritious snack.

The best pumpkins for carving are field pumpkins such as 'Connecticut Field' and the white-skinned 'Lumina'. These varieties average 15 to 20 pounds and feature a smooth, round shape and a slightly flattened bottom so they stand sturdy. These pumpkins also have less "meat," so they are lighter weight and easier to carve.

Carving the Pumpkin

Once you've selected or grown your carving pumpkin, keep it stored in a 40F room until carving time. This will ensure that it doesn't rot before you carve it. With a sharp knife, carve off the top of the pumpkin, then scoop out and remove the innards and seeds. Save the seeds for roasting. Even though I don't like them quite as well as naked, seeded varieties, they still taste great!

With a marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth on the pumpkin face and then carve out the shapes. You can even get creative and cut out words or sayings.

Commercial Cuts

Part of the fun of pumpkin carving is creating your own faces and designs. However, for those who want a standard look, there are many commercial carving kits available to cut out cats, witches, ghosts, and all kinds of goblins and creatures. There's a farm near my home where they carve out hundreds of pumpkins, put them on fence posts, and light them a few nights before Halloween. It's quite a show!

For those who are shy about carving, you can always decorate your pumpkin with paints and craft materials. Anyway you do it, pumpkin decorating and carving is a fall rite of passage.

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