From funny faces to scary skulls, there’s no limit to what you can carve into a pumpkin. Displaying your work is one of the Hallmark’s of Halloween. But that excited fall feeling quickly fades when your masterpiece becomes a mushy mess on the front porch.
Of course you know your jack-o-lantern won’t last forever, but there are a few steps you can take to help keep your hard work intact for longer:
- Always buy your pumpkins from a local farm. Because it’s grown on-site, you can be sure your pumpkin has been spared the damage often done by careless shippers.
- Pick a good one. A long-lasting jack-lantern starts with a firm pumpkin. Avoid choosing a pumpkin that already has soft spots.
- Clean it well. Exterior: Before you start carving, load a spray bottle with one teaspoon of bleach and one quart of water. Spray and wipe the exterior surfaces first to remove any excess dirt and bacteria that could enter your pumpkin. Interior: Once you cut inside, it’s important to remove all of the wet, sticky pumpkin guts because moisture brings mold. Before you start carving, spray the inside with the bleach solution and let dry. This will kill any bacteria that would otherwise end up feeding on your work of art.
- After cutting. Spray any cut areas of your pumpkin with the solution and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain any excess moisture.
- Apply petroleum jelly. One the reasons pumpkins rot is that they dry out too fast — too much moisture, not enough moisture. Sheesh! But applying a thin layer of Vaseline around the cut edges of your pumpkin will help its longevity. But avoid using a real candle! Vaseline is flammable, so have a battery operated candle on hand if you want to light it.
- Spray everyday. Again with the finicky moisture needs. Pumpkins shrivel up because the meaty part starts to dry out. Spraying every day with your bleach solution will both hydrate and keep bacteria at bay.
- Keep it cool. Direct sunlight or warm temperature can cause a pumpkin to collapse. If you’re not trying to show it off all the time, keep your jack-o-lantern in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or in another cool, dark room of your house like the basement.
- Don’t carve it. If you absolutely need to keep your pumpkin in top shape, keeping it in tact will keep it freshest for the longest period of time, and you still have the option to paint it.