Does anything scream October more than a pumpkin?
I mean look at it. It’s even “O” shaped.
Between Thanksgiving and Halloween the venerable pumpkin is large and in charge all month long in our food, decorating and scaring.
Where to find great pumpkins
Yes your local supermarket has loads of pumpkins every year, beautifully stacked in front of the store, tempting your children with their plump orangeyness. But you know what’s really fun? Pumpkin patches! Get your pumpkin by visiting a local farm with a pumpkin patch. You can make a great day of hay rides, fresh air, games, long walks, and just a whole lot of old fashioned fall goodness and come home with memories that will last longer than that orange gourd. If you live in Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton, we’ve got you covered with our round ups of great local pumpkin patches.
How to pick the best pumpkin:
SIZE MATTERS- If you are going to cook or bake with it, choose a smaller pumpkin because the flesh is less stringy but if you plan to decorate with the pumpkin, pick whatever size catches your fancy.
STEM – Choose a pumpkin that still has a few inches of stem but never pick your pumpkin up by the stem because doing so will cause it to decay faster
HOLEY! – Stay away from pumpkins with punctures, holes, or soft spots. The pumpkin will start to rot and smell from these spots
THREE F’s – Pick a Pumpkin that is Firm, Flat-bottomed, & Free of brown streaks or spots.
Decorating with Pumpkins
I am not good at decorating. But I love to group a bunch of pumpkins together because presto instant pumpkin impact!
Another simple way to decorate with pumpkins is to paint them. How lovely and simple is this?
Or you can add glitter like this!
Kids also love painting pumpkins so get a bag of the small pumpkins, acrylic craft paint and have a pumpkin painting party. Inspired by some of the awesome decorative pumpkins in the Rachel Ray magazine, I bought glow-in-the-dark paint for the kids last year and we used it to paint faces on the pumpkins. They also painted them every color combination under the rainbow.
And what did we do before Pinterest? It is totally chock full of pumpkin décor ideas!
Carving the Perfect Pumpkin:
Clean before you cut! You can delay the decay by using a mild bleach solution to wipe the pumpkin’s surface before you start carving.
Inside too! Once you have cleaned out the goop on the inside use the bleach solution to wipe out the cavity and top.
Protect – Once carving is complete rub a thin layer of Vaseline on all cut surfaces of the pumpkin. This will help your creation last longer by keeping moisture in and bacteria out.
Use proper tools. The big butcher knife is not the best too for this job. You can go to a dollar store for a set of carving tools, you can get better quality tools at craft or specialty kitchen stores, or you can raid the garage for a keyhole or drywall saw, hand drill or other rotary tools. I got my set at a dollar store and it is adequate. The kids like the tools and they are just the right size for them.
Don’t use a candle! The heat from the candle will cause your pumpkin to decay faster. A LED candle is a great solution or, you can cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin and insert a short string of Christmas lights instead.
Pumpkin pie is ubiquitous but we’ve got some other ideas for using our pumpkin; muffins, soup, bread pudding. YUM!
Then there is the eternal conundrum; To roast the seeds or not to roast the seeds, that is the question.
Personally I find the process of cleaning the seeds tedious, but they do taste wonderful. The easiest way to get the gunk off the seeds is to scoop the seeds into a strainer and run water through it while you rub the seeds between your fingers. Eventually all the strings and flesh will wash away and you’ll be left with seeds ready for roasting. The simplest method is to toss seeds in a bowl with melted butter or oil and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for about 45 minutes at 300 degrees F.
The seasoning possibilities are endless. Many seasoning blends taste terrific such as Old Bay, Cajun seasoning, Taco seasonings or more. Try brown sugar and cinnamon for a sweet treat, or use hot sauce to crank it up a notch.
Some great combinations can be found at the Brown Eyed Baker, Cookin’ Canuck & Art of Manliness
We hope some of these ideas have inspired you to embrace the pumpkin!