Picking the Perfect Pumpkin

October 14, 2019

The annual search for the perfect pumpkin has begun.  The perfect pumpkin that will be displayed on my front porch until it is magically transformed into the most amazing jack-o-lantern ever.  Dare I dream?  Finding the perfect pumpkin is just about impossible – because there is no perfect pumpkin.  Pumpkins grow on the ground and they all have flat spots and imperfections.  But those imperfections are what make our Halloween pumpkins special.

We took the kids to the pumpkin patch this weekend and I grimaced as the kids picked their perfect pumpkins.  I have one child who loves the crazy, bumpy, discolored pumpkins.  They have character but it’s not what I’m looking for – makes for a challenging jack-o-lantern.  I have another child who just wants the biggest pumpkin she can find.  And then I have one kid who really doesn’t give a crap and wants to go get a donut.

We are all looking for something different when we head to the pumpkin patch, Home Depot, grocery store or wherever you are purchasing your pumpkin.  But, here is some basic advice to help you find a pumpkin that you will be happy with this Halloween.

Know what you want your Pumpkin to Look like

What is the purpose of your pumpkin?

Do you have a plan for your pumpkin? Will you be carving your pumpkin or displaying it intact? Are you looking for one big pumpkin or several smaller pumpkins to group together? Do you want traditional Jack-o-lantern pumpkins or one of the gorgeous hybrid versions? Do you want a smooth one or a pumpkin with a bumpy surface? There are so many options that it is easier if you figure out what you want before you head out to the pumpkin patch.

Plan your jack-o-lantern before you search for a pumpkin

If you are planning on carving your pumpkin, I suggest finding your template or sketching out your design before you pick a pumpkin.  Some carvings require tall pumpkins, others are better on rounder pumpkins.  The search will be less overwhelming if you are looking for something specific.

There are so many different colors of pumpkins

Let’s talk color.  Do you want a traditional bright orange pumpkin or do you like one that is speckled with some green or yellow.  Maybe you want a white pumpkin this year.

Examine the stem of the pumpkin

Another characteristic of a pumpkin is its stem.  They are all a little different.  Over the years we have had some unique looking pumpkins because they have had long and curly stems.  Other years we go for a short blunt stem.  Two pieces of advice – never hold the pumpkin by the stem – you don’t want that stem to break off.  If a pumpkin has no stem it will probably not last as long as it would if it’s stem were intact.

Look for a flat bottom

If you are planning on standing your pumpkin – make sure it has a flat bottom.  You are going to be awfully frustrated if your jack-o-lantern keeps wobbling to the side or falling over.

Thoroughly examine your pumpkin

Always clean the mud off the pumpkin

Once you think you’ve found the pumpkin that meets all your criteria it is time to examine the pumpkin for any imperfections that would lead to early rotting.  You need to CLEAN the pumpkin before you buy it so you can get a really good look at it.  Mud can hide a lot of imperfections.  I always carry wet paper towels in my bag when we go pumpkin and apple picking – to clean apples, pumpkins and sticky children.  Wipe down the pumpkin and examine it thoroughly.

Check for soft spots

Check for soft spots – pick up the pumpkin and press it firmly all over looking for soft spots.  If you find any soft spots you need to pass on this pumpkin

Check the stem

If your pumpkin has no stem or a dry, brittle stem it may not last as long as you would like.  A brittle dry stem means that the pumpkin was stressed for water while it was growing.  So, it may not be the healthiest.

Check for cracks and splits

If the skin on the pumpkin is broken it will mold or rot pretty quickly.  Walk away from this pumpkin!

This small hole is enough of a break in the skin to make this a bad pumpkin.

Look for evidence of bugs

Look for bugs and other creepy crawlies.  If they are all over a pumpkin it probably means that the skin has been broken somewhere.  Small little holes in the pumpkin skin indicate that there are bugs inside the pumpkin.  Yuck!

Check for mold

Look for mold – self explanatory.  You can’t just wash away mold – the spores have invaded this pumpkin so you need to find a different one.

One little moldy spot will turn into this nasty mess in no time at all!

Thumbnail Test

Perform a thumbnail test.  Push your thumbnail on the bottom of the pumpkin.  The pumpkin shell should not dent or scratch.  The pumpkin should be sturdier than your nail.  A weak pumpkin is not going to last until Halloween.

Good Luck Finding Your Perfect Pumpkin

After all that it’s amazing that we ever find a pumpkin that meets all of our criteria.  But we always do and once we carve our scary (or cute) faces into them we love our pumpkins even more.  Good luck on your quest to find the perfect pumpkin this year.

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