Picking and Carving the Perfect Pumpkin
Pumpkin production, which climbed to more than 1.5 billion pounds in 2015, reaches its peak in October as Americans prepare to celebrate Halloween. As pumpkins have become ingrained into our Halloween and Thanksgiving cultures, the number of creative ways to use and enjoy them has increased.
Dawn Bryan, author of the best-selling book The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving, the recently published Elite Etiquette, and founder of Qualipedia™ the definitive source for making choices daily that count, offers the following tips including how to grow, pick, carve, eat, and store along with nutritional information and some wacky facts.
Pick a Perfect Pumpkin: A mature pumpkin will be difficult to scratch, bright orange, have a green stem and be fully hardened. A shiny skin indicates that it was picked too soon.
- For Eating: Look for a pumpkin which feels heavy for its size, as it will tend to have more dense, edible flesh.
- For Painting: The best pumpkins for painting have smooth skin and shallow ribbing. The varieties Orange Smoothie, Cotton Candy, and Lumina are excellent for painting.
- For Carving: Choose a pumpkin with structural strength, flat bottom, sturdy stem, and ability to last several days after being carved. It will sound hollow when tapped.
- Carving pumpkins can be accomplished with a variety of tools such as regular kitchen knives.
- However, in recent years inventors have patented tools made solely for this purpose; in addition to the cutting tools, some kits contain design templates and detailed instructions.
- Choosing specialty pumpkins such as giant, miniature, unusual shapes, or white pumpkins (spooky) can add to the originality. The most popular carvings are of the Jack-O-Lantern variety.
- To carve a good Jack-O-Lantern, you need grease pencils for pre-marking; patterns — your own or those you can download from the internet; gutting spoons for scooping; a long, thin-bladed boning knife to cut out the top and other large pieces; and a very sharp small paring knife for detail work.
· A seasonal, warm weather crop, pumpkins require warm soil that holds water well and at least one bee hive per acre for adequate pollination.
· Milk-fed Pumpkins: Feeding your pumpkin milk helps to grow a larger pumpkin. Although milk does not have any properties that directly increase pumpkin size, it keeps your pumpkins healthy and free of disease.
There are three ways to milk-feed your pumpkin:
- Wick: Pour two percent milk with a tablespoon of sugar into a small covered pan or bowl, insert one end of wick or string into a small slit in the pumpkin stem and the other into the pan which is in a small hole next to the pumpkin.
- Injection: You can also use a syringe to inject the milk into the stem.
- Pour: Use milk as fertilizer by mixing with manure or pour a cup of milk around the roots daily.
Pumpkins for Food:
· Pumpkins have become a part of the cuisine of many countries throughout the world: Roasted with other vegetables in Australia and New Zealand, in tempura in Japan, for ravioli stuffing in Italy, as a cooked vegetable in China, and served as a sweet dessert in Thailand, India, and the Middle East.
· Eat only when ripe.
· Fresh pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, micro-waved, or roasted and is frequently mashed or pureed before combining it with other ingredients.
· Desserts include pumpkin pie, crème brulee, mousse, gingerbread, cupcakes, and cheesecakes.
· Other favorites include the pumpkin martini, pumpkin beers, pumpkin muffins, sweet and sour pumpkin, and pumpkin soup.
. Pumpkin oil is frequently combined with other oils for cooking. Pumpkin blossoms are often batter fired or used to make fritters.
Store and Preserve:
· Store in a cool dry place (45 to 60 °F) for up to a month or refrigerate for up to three months.
· Extra pumpkin for eating can be frozen, canned or dried for longer storage. Freezing is the easiest and results in the best quality product.
· Carved pumpkin will begin to dry and shrivel as soon as it’s cut. To slow down the dehydration process and deter the onset of mold, coat all cut surfaces as well as the entire inside of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly. Coat the eyes, nose, and mouth or any other design you have carved out.
· Pumpkins: Fat-free, cholesterol free, a good source of vitamin C and an excellent source of vitamin A; the bright orange pumpkin shouts that it is loaded with antioxidants.
· Pumpkin Seeds are excellent sources of fiber and rich in vitamin A and potassium. They are also packed with protein, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins E and B.
–Pumpkins can grow to weigh over 2000 pounds!
–Pumpkin seeds and oil have been used as a remedy for snake-bite and prostate problems, cure for freckles, and poultice treatment for burns.
Pumpkin burial is an age-old Halloween tradition. You can even find eulogies on the internet. Surely, the Great Pumpkin approves!