Pumpkin Hunting 101
When searching for the perfect gourd, everyone has their personal preferences. White, orange, giant, small, smooth or bumpy. The combinations are endless. Whatever your taste, there are a few things to look for during your search. Choose a pumpkin that is firm and feels heavy. Check for any soft or moldy spots. The stem should still be firmly attached. For carving, make sure there is at least one flat side and that the pumpkin sits level on a flat surface. If you like the white pumpkins, don’t delay. These sell out quickly so buy them as soon as you see them.
Choosing the Right Tools
Once you have the perfect array of pumpkins, you’ll want to gather your supplies. If you have little ones, a fun and safe way for them to get involved is to let them select a few of the tiny pumpkins and then display their artistic ability with paint, glue or glitter. There are also some really cute kits that allow you to stick pieces onto the pumpkin to create different faces or animals. For amateur carving, grab some of those handy packs that include your tools as well as some patterns. If you prefer something more advanced or unique, make sure you have a large serrated knife to cut through the top or bottom of the pumpkin, a large metal spoon for scooping, a paring knife for more precise cuts. Grab plenty of newspaper to grab the mess, perhaps some painting smocks and flameless candles with batteries to put inside your creation.
Setting the Stage
A pumpkin carving party is typically one of your more casual get-togethers. There’s no need to go over the top on preparation. Put out your existing fall décor, light a seasonal candle and (weather permitting) get a fire pit or fire place going. Chili is a crowd-pleaser that is super easy when thrown into a crockpot. Set a DIY toppings bar with cheese, corn chips, sour cream, onion, etc., and pair with some cornbread for the perfect comfort food meal. Offer cider only if your crowd will drink it. Beer and wine are easy and go great with the chili. Hot chocolate is a warm treat for the kiddos after they finish their pumpkins. Warm caramel or peanut butter poured over apple slices make for a yummy but not over indulgent dessert.
We’ve all seen the sad collapsed faces staring at us days before Halloween has even arrived. To keep your creation looking its best, you can spray with bleach or go the natural route with the following concoction: Combine two tablespoons of borax, eight ounces water, and forty drops of peppermint essential oil in a spray bottle. Shake to mix and spray the pumpkin inside and out. Try to keep your jack o’ lanterns out of direct sun light and avoid cleaning solutions that suggest apple cider vinegar as these may attract bugs.
The Skinny on Seeds
While the goopy pumpkin innards are less than appetizing, the seeds actually make a yummy snack when prepared correctly. Start by scooping everything out and then separating the seeds. Clean them by rinsing in a colander and then give a good shake to dry. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and roast at 300°F for thirty minutes to completely dry them out. Toss with olive oil and your seasonings of choice and then bake for an additional twenty minutes or until golden and crisp. There are some great options for flavors online such as buffalo, ranch, cinnamon sugar and taco. For a simple savory option, toss with two tablespoons of melted butter and one teaspoon seasoned salt per cup of seeds.
Creating Your Display
Whether in their natural state or decorated to the nines, pumpkins are the quintessential fall focal point. When creating your design, use a variety of sizes, colors and textures for lots of cohesive visual interest. To keep things from looking flat add some height by bringing in potted plants, hay bales, lanterns, urns or wooden crates. You can also add some personalization by painting your family’s last initial or the street address on one or more of the pumpkins. Draw inspiration from design ideas on Pinterest and then throw your own spin on it.