With a little knowledge about pumpkin preservation and design, it’s easy to create a spectacularly carved gourd this Halloween.
Choose the right pumpkin
The first step to caving the perfect pumpkin is to pick the right squash. Per Good Housekeeping contributor Liz Borod, pick one that is fresh with a sturdy stem and has no bruises. Any soft spots or bruises usually indicate that the pumpkin has started to rot. Make sure it also has a flat underside to keep it from rolling around when you carve it.
Pick a style
Next, decide on a style for the gourd. There are three main types of designs, as Pumpkin King Creations owner and master carver Ryan Lisson shared with MPR News contributor Cassidy Kiek.
- Jack-o’-lantern: It’s a simple, hollowed-out design that usually has a face or symbol carved on the exterior
- 3D face sculpture: Like its name implies, this style involves slicing a multi-dimensional face on the pumpkin; make sure to pick a heavy pumpkin for this style to ensure a stable work surface for your carving.
- Surface carving: This style involves chiseling off only the outermost layer of the pumpkin to reveal the pale pulp beneath.
Per Lisson, the first two styles will last about a week before the pumpkin starts to rot since they involve deeper cuts. Surface carving is a great choice if you want a longer-lasting pumpkin because they can go about a month before rotting.
Trace a design
To make a more complex creation, it’s a good idea to print or draw the design on paper first, as Organic Authority contributor Jessica Reeder advises. For a more basic style, draw the pattern directly onto the pumpkin with a water-based or dry erase marker.
Select the right tools
Per Lisson, the best tool to use is usually the small, serrated saw that comes in a pumpkin carving kit. For more intricate 3D styles, clay sculpting tools will serve you well. You can also use an X-ACTO® knife if you have one on hand.
Light the lantern
For jack-o’-lantern designs, you’ll want to choose a safe way to illuminate the pumpkin’s interior. The Country Living team suggests using a votive candle inside a glass dish and filling it with water to help protect your masterpiece from the flames. You can also use a string of Christmas lights as a safer lighting method.
Preserve the pumpkin
Although carved pumpkins tend to have only a few weeks’ shelf life at best, there are a few things you can do to help preserve your squash. Lisson suggests keeping the stem intact, regardless of what design you choose. The stem will provide nutrients to the pumpkin to help slow the rotting process. You can also spray the pumpkin with a lemon juice and water solution, then cover it with a plastic bag during the day. Lisson also recommends storing the pumpkin in your garage or basement, particularly on chilly fall nights.
Master the art of the jack-o’-lantern this season, or try your hand at a 3D or surface design, by applying these practical steps to your next pumpkin-carving session. Just don’t be surprised if your neighbors and friends start asking you for design tips.