One of my favorite fall activities is visiting the pumpkin patch with my family. I love the corn mazes, hay rides, hot apple cider, and most of all, I love the beautiful array of pumpkins: big ones, little ones, skinny ones, fat ones, white ones, orange ones, and more! With so many different varieties of pumpkins, how do you pick the perfect pumpkin for you and your family?
1) HAVE A PLAN
Before heading out to the pumpkin patch, plan out what types of pumpkins you will need for your fall festivities. Will you bake pies? Do you want to save extra pumpkin for next year? Will you be painting or carving your pumpkins for decorations? Perhaps you will need a few fancy gourds to decorate around the house? If you plan to paint or carve a pumpkin, pick out your pattern ahead of time so you can be sure to look for the pumpkin with an appropriate shape: tall, short, round, skinny – it all depends on your design.
2) CHECK THE RIPENESS
There are a few easy signs to look for when determining if your pumpkin is ripe:
- Stem – The stem is hard and sturdy, though you should never carry the pumpkin by the stem as it could break off. If the stem is green, it has recently been harvested and will be fresh.
- Hollow – If you pat or thump on the pumpkin, it should sound hollow inside.
- Soft spots – If you can visibly see soft spots, cuts, mold, or wrinkles – it is past its prime. If you do not see any soft spots, check the bottom of the pumpkin. Press gently on the bottom with your thumbs, and if it is soft, the pumpkin is not fresh. You can also press the skin gently with your fingernail – if it leaves a dent but does not puncture, it is ripe.
- Color – Unless it is a variety that is supposed to be green, white, or another color, your pumpkin should be orange all the way around, without green spots.
3) CONSIDER THE WEIGHT
A heavy, hollow pumpkin will have a lot of flesh to it, which is perfect for the pumpkins you intend to eat such as sugar pie pumpkins. They will store well in a cool, dark location, only getting sweeter over time. If you are selecting a pumpkin to carve, however, you may only want to harvest a pumpkin that you can easily carry without straining your back – there can be some heavyweights out there!
Now that you have selected your pumpkin, be sure to store it properly so it will last longer. You can dip pumpkins in a bucket with 10% bleach to kill any organisms that may be growing on the skin, protecting the pumpkin so that it will stay fresh. If you intend to eat your pumpkin, you may dip it in a vinegar solution instead. Be sure to store the pumpkin out of direct sunlight and bring it inside if there is a risk of frost.
What do you look for in a perfect pumpkin? What tips do you have for picking the best one for your family this fall? Share with us in the comments!