Keep Your Jack O'Lanterns Spooky, Not Slimy!
Jack-o-lanterns can have just about any effect you want, you simply have to carve them to match your mood. But although they can be either silly or scary, no matter what you do, eventually, they’re all going to become the same—slimy.
A Scary Situation
After all, pumpkins are a fruit (a type of gourd, a squash, specifically), and like any food item left out of the fridge, they rot, and fast. Not long after you carve one, you may start to notice the squashy interior turning brown and the once clean-cut edges created by your knife-wielding artistry start to wither.
Next comes the smell, often followed by a sort of “drool” draining from the cut edges as the pumpkin starts disintegrating from the inside. Mold starts to grow and then, finally, the coup-de-grace, bugs and rodents invade to scarf up the petrified mush.
Could there be anything scarier on the scariest of holidays?
True and Tested Pumpkin Carving Tips
Most veteran pumpkin carvers wait until the very last minute to carve their Halloween pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, so hopefully by the time they rot, Halloween (and the candy that comes with it) will be a long, distant memory.
Although there are no foolproof ways to preserve your artwork forever, there are methods that can delay the inevitable decay process, which includes keeping the bugs at bay.
First off, pick as fresh of a pumpkin as you can get. You may want to skip the supermarket and venture out of town to a bonafide pumpkin patch. Tap it with your knuckles to make sure the skin has plenty of “bounce” and it thumps with a clean, hollow sound. If it’s already going soft before you bring it home, imagine what condition it’ll be in when Halloween finally arrives.
Next, wait until the third week of October before carving it. That’ll ensure it only has to make it about seven to ten days until the holiday.
When you start to carve it, be sure to scrape out all the stringy, slimy pumpkin guts, including all the seeds. The less soft material you leave attached to the inside of your jack-o-lantern, the less stuff there is to turn sour and attract critters.
Next, fill a spray bottle with a bleach/water solution, following the instructions on the bottle of bleach for household use, usually 1/3 cup of bleach for every 2 quarts of water, and spray that sucker down inside and out. You can repeat this process once a day to help keep bacteria and fungus from eating away at your living art.
If the forecast calls for the outdoor temperature to drop below freezing, bring your jack-o-lantern inside. Although it may seem counterintuitive (freezing, after all, preserves food), unless the temperatures are going to say below 32°F until Halloween, when the pumpkin thaws, like most fruits and vegetables, it will become soft and limp and will rot even faster.
If you’re lighting your creations with real candles, put a citronella candle in your jack-o-lantern to further ward off bugs.
Be sure to place your pumpkin somewhere cool and dry, like in the shade, out of the sun and, if you want to go the extra mile to preserve it as long as possible, refrigerate it overnight.
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