9 ways to make your pumpkin last longer and preserve your carving all the way until Halloween
As pumpkin patches open their gates to visitors thoughts will quickly turn to the frightening faces and creepy carvings you can make ahead of Halloween.
But how do you ensure your squash doesn't shrivel before October 31? Some top tips for preserving your picked pumpkins here:
1. Handle with care
How long your pumpkin will last will of course begin with picking a good crop. Buying one straight from a farmers field or local pumpkin patch, if you live close enough and can visit, might mean it is less likely to have been knocked, squashed, bruised or damaged during the delivery process. But regardless of whether you take it direct from the great outdoors or from a supermarket aisle, be sure to check it over thoroughly - and don't drop it!
Pick a firm pumpkin and avoid taking one home that already has any soft spots, dents or gouges in it as that will only accelerate the rotting process as the air has already been able to sneak in.
2. Delay carving if you can
Like any fruit or vegetable - the quality of it will diminish as time passes. If you've headed to a pumpkin patch a few days or weeks before Halloween, try and persuade the kids to save the fun of carving until a little closer to October 31.
Once the tender inside flesh of any squash is exposed to air and begins to dehydrate the decaying process steadily starts - and while there are things you can do to slow it down - the longer you wait to cut into your pumpkin the better.
3. Clean the pumpkin and your hands
Any bacteria or dirt on the outside of the pumpkin will speed-up the rotting process if it were to hit the flesh. So before carving, wash down your pumpkin with some water and a rough cloth to remove any dirt and debris and be sure to properly dry it before cutting.
The same applies to your hands too - wash them carefully to remove any bacteria and dirt that you might unknowingly transfer to your pumpkin that would help make it mouldy and shorten its lifespan.
4. Stand it on a clean dry area
You must be very careful to keep your pumpkin clean and dry in order to make it last longer - whether you have decided to cut it a few weeks or days before Halloween or not. Standing your squash on a wet, damp surface will risk introducing mould to the base of the flesh so this should be avoided. Using newspaper, a dry towel or a piece of cardboard will help protect the pumpkin from any unwanted moisture festering underneath.
5. Clear it out thoroughly before carving
Before carving it is really important to remove all of the pumpkin's loose flesh and seeds. Leaving any behind will bring in added moisture that you don't need and could prove problematic.
When you've removed all of the pumpkin 'guts' be sure that you have a clean dry cavity inside before carving.
6. Give it shelter
Although it is less likely in the UK there are occasions, where with some strong sunshine, that autumnal days can get quite warm and sunny. If your pumpkin has been placed outside or on a windowsill in full glare of the sunlight it will begin to heat-up and rot more quickly. To give your pumpkin the best chance of survival put it in a cool, shady place such as a porch away from the elements.
7. Put it somewhere cool at night
If you've decided to bring your pumpkin indoors away from the risk of rain and damp, be aware of where it might be left to sit in your centrally-heated house. A dark cupboard or even the garage or shed would be better than keeping them indoors around radiators.
Carved pumpkins normally last around three to five days once they've been cut into, but avid pumpkin carvers suggest this can be extended a little by wrapping a pumpkin in a plastic bag and placing it in the fridge overnight should you be struggling to find somewhere cool to keep it.
8. Give it an ice bath
If you couldn't persuade the kids not to carve the pumpkin and it's looking less than its best by Halloween there is a speedy short-term fix that can bring your drab-looking squash back to life temporarily.
Filling a bucket with ice cold water and plenty of ice and plunging the pumpkin into the frozen mixture for a few hours, or even overnight, can help to rehydrate the flesh and keep it going just that little bit longer. Once removed from the bucket, pat it dry with kitchen paper or a cloth.
9. Use a battery-operated flame
Warmth will dehydrate your pumpkin and speed up the shrivelling process so, alongside being a much safer option, using battery-powered LED tea lights rather than real candles and flames will not only keep your guests and neighbours safe but keep your pumpkin lasting longer too.