5 tips for picking the perfect carving pumpkin

A field of pumpkins stacked in hay.

The fresher the pumpkin you bring home, the longer your jack o’lantern will last. This is one of the reasons I’ve strayed away from purchasing my carving pumpkins at the grocery store and opted instead for pumpkins from a pick-your-own patch.

However, even at the farm, not all pumpkins have the same shelf life. There are a few telltale signs of a healthy pumpkin you should look for this fall.

Pumpkins with lighter orange skin are easier to carve because the skin is not a hard as the darker orange pumpkins. However, the darker orange pumpkins have tougher skin and will last longer.

Picking pumpkins that feel heavier than they look is beneficial because it means they have more flesh and thicker skin. Although that means more scooping it also means your pumpkin will dehydrate slower, prolonging its life.3

Stem length
You can tell how healthy the pumpkin is by looking at its stem. A strong sturdy stem is a good sign of a healthy pumpkin, whereas a brittle, thin stem that breaks off or no stem at all can indicate that the pumpkin was stressed for water and nutrients. Pumpkins without a stem won’t last long and those with soft stems may have already started to rot.

4Skin appearance
It’s important to choose a pumpkin with firm, spot free skin. Soft spots are early signs of rot and holes and cuts will generally rot sooner. However, it’s ok to choose a pumpkin that’s not fully ripe as it will continue to ripen even after it’s harvested.5

Always make sure to inspect the bottom of your pumpkin before taking it home. You want to avoid pumpkins with soft bottoms as it’s an indicator of early rot. You should also be sure to select a pumpkin with a flat bottom, so your jack o’lantern will stand upright.

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  1. Thank you for pointing out that when a pumpkin is heavier than it looks it means it has thicker skin and more water, which will help your pumpkin last longer. Halloween is my favorite holiday; I love dressing up and telling ghost stories. I cannot wait to carve pumpkins and go play in the pumpkin patches with my kids!


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