Does your Jack O’Lantern look more sad than scary after just a few days on the front porch? Keep him looking his best for visiting ghosts and goblins with these tips from Thomas Olton, a carver for RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns, coming this month to Descanso Gardens.
- Pick a pumpkin that has not been damaged. Even a tiny nick or scratch will cause the rotting process to begin rapidly.
- A pumpkin with thick walls will often last longer than a thin one. To improve the chances of getting a thicker one, pick the pumpkin that seems heaviest for its size.
- Clean your pumpkin thoroughly with a bleach-based cleaner before carving. Any bathroom cleaner should do. Also clean all of the knives and tools you will be using. This should kill any bacteria waiting around to feed on a freshly cut pumpkin.
- Make sure that your knives are sharp. A sharp knife imparts less trauma on the pumpkin and will help in the effort to preserve it.
- Once you have carved your pumpkin, spray it inside and out with a bleach-based cleaner. This will eliminate any bacteria that it may have picked up during the carving process. It will also help deter any wildlife that might come to feed on your pumpkin.
- A pumpkin can also be preserved by refrigerating it when not displayed. Be sure not to freeze the pumpkin, or it will decay much faster once thawed.
Killing the bacteria that causes decay is the number-one way to preserve a pumpkin. The skin, when intact, provides an excellent barrier against germs. Once a pumpkin has been cut, the clock begins ticking. But, with some careful preparation, we can keep the process of natural decay to a reasonable minimum.