Today is Sunday, September 22, 2013.
The pumpkins are ready for harvest!
The other day, I read about some ways to preserve a pumpkin, particularly after it has been carved into a jack-o-lantern as a Halloween decoration. I couldn't believe all the ways that were suggested. Fortunately, several people went to the trouble of testing them so that the rest of us don't have to, and they very kindly put the results of their efforts online for all to see.
Just for the record, I'm going to list the various preservation treatments, so you know what was tested.
5% Bleach Solution: 1 tablespoon of bleach in one gallon of water
Clear acrylic spray paint (clear coat)
Wet Platinum Silicone Personal Lubricant
Honda Spray Polish
(automotive spray polish)
Chlorox Clean-up with Bleach (not diluted)
Pumpkin Fresh (commercial product for preserving pumpkins)
A "control pumpkin" (no
preservative at all)
An uncarved pumpkin, also as a control
Before you start you need to pick out a good pumpkin. Here are some things to consider.
Try to find pumpkins with smooth, blemish-free skin, but remember that as long as one side looks fine, you can carve that side and keep the blemishes on the back side.
Avoid any pumpkins with soft spots or mold, as these have already started to rot.
Check for stability by putting the pumpkin on a flat surface.
Buy your pumpkin locally, so that it hasn't been bumped around in a truck.
Make sure the pumpkin still has par of the stem left on.
Buy pumpkins closest to the shape you will need for carving. For some designs, a round pumpkin is best, while for others, an elongated shape is better.
As soon as you have carved your pumpkin, you must preserve it immediately. The very best methods of keeping pumpkins looking fresh involve bleach, although the Pumpkin Fresh product also works. No method will work for more than about 14 days! This means that if you wish to have jack-o-lantern decorations that are at their best for Halloween, which is the night of October 31st, you should ideally carve your pumpkin no more than about 4-5 days before the holiday.
You need to soak your pumpkin in water with bleach for at least 8 hours, in the beginning. Then carefully pat the inside and outside of your pumpkin dry and turn your pumpkin upside down to let all the liquid drain out.
After that, you must spray it with a mist of water and bleach solution or Chlorox Clean-up with Bleach every day to keep it from drying out, but be sure that you do not leave any liquid pooled on the inside of the pumpkin. Another thing you can do is just soak the pumpkin in cold water overnight to re-hydrate it, then dry it off carefully in the morning
Keep the pumpkin out of direct sunlight.
Pumpkin Fresh does work, but it's quite expensive and may have to be special-ordered. Also, you have to use a lot of it to keep your pumpkin hydrated.
The absolute worst ways to keep your pumpkin fresh, according to the studies, are Vaseline and white glue.
Note that if you don't carve your pumpkin at all, it will last longer than a carved pumpkin that has been preserved.