Next Thursday is Halloween and many of you have already spent time carving or painting a face on a pumpkin for your children or grandchildren, or you will be doing that this weekend. If you don't have little ones around there is no reason you can't throw a pumpkin carving party for yourself or for friends and let everyone enjoy creating one to take home.
To keep your carved pumpkin looking good for as long as possible, it is important to keep it out of direct sunlight, take it inside if there is threat of frost, and spray it inside and out to protect it from losing too much moisture too quickly with a product such as Wilt-Pruf. Also remember some trick-or-treaters think smashing pumpkins on the street is part of the fun — so taking it in before going away or going to bed at night might be a good idea.
If you are going to be carving pumpkins, (you can even carve gourds and squash), how about saving the seed for your own pumpkin patch next season? Here are some simple tips on how to do both:
•Select healthy-looking pumpkins to carve and to save seed from. Make sure the rind is a nice even color and feels hard and that there are no soft spots or bruises on the rind.
•Make sure the stem has not been broken off — if this happened when it was picked, or is among other pumpkins when you choose one, it could already be going bad. If this happened when being picked, it is like an open wound to the fruit and might mean the fruit has already begun to deteriorate.
•When you pick a pumpkin, if it is heavy this just means the inner walls are very thick and could make it more difficult to carve and to see the face once it is done.
•To save seed while prepping the pumpkin to carve, scoop out the pulp.
•Don't throw the pulp and seeds in the waste can or wherever — place it in a large dish or pan.
•Separate the seeds from the fleshy part and put them in a colander.
•Wash with cool or warm water making sure all the pulp is removed.
•Spread seeds on layers of paper towel and pat dry.
•Remove from the towel and spread them on a tray or cookie sheet to continue the drying process.
•Make sure the tray is setting in a dry location.
•Check occasionally and turn each seed to make sure they are drying evenly. If some are looking a bit moldy or are not drying properly, remove them as this can cause seeds next to them to go bad.
•When they are dry, put them in a brown paper bag and write on the bag what is in it and keep in a cool, dry place for your future garden — and to share.
•A great way to teach your children to love gardening is to let them help with the seed-saving process and then when planting season begins, prepare a garden area that is all their own where they can plant the pumpkin seeds and watch them grow.