Several weeks before Halloween my family takes a trip to a local pumpkin patch and we trudge through the fields searching for picture-perfect pumpkins. We examine the pumpkin’s size, shape, color and the condition of the stem. We carefully look for weak spots, bruises, insects burrowing into the orange outer shell and signs of rot.
When we are happy with our wheelbarrow full of pumpkins, we load them into the car and take them home, immensely proud of our collection. But, when it comes time for pumpkin carving the inevitable happens. Our perfect pumpkins are perfect no longer. Some have rotted through the bottom. Others used as outdoor decor have been ravaged by squirrels and bugs. Once, we removed a pumpkin lid to find a webbing of mold inside.
This year, I decided to take action and save our pumpkins from these Halloween horrors.
I tested a few methods for preserving pumpkins and we saved three out of four this year, a marked improvement. I also learned a few tips from friends who have had similar pumpkin woes in the past.
Clean Pumpkins – It’s important to remove dirt and fungus from pumpkins. Fill a spray bottle with a 1:10 solution of bleach and water. Spray the pumpkins thoroughly. Scrub with a disposable cloth or sponge (I always wear rubber gloves). Rinse and thoroughly dry the pumpkin. I usually perform this entire step outside and use the garden hose to spray the pumpkins. I like to leave the mess to the outdoors.
Treat Pumpkins – Squirrels and bugs love to nosh on fresh pumpkins. Spray clean pumpkins with vinegar. It’s safe for your family and the scent will deter squirrels from seeking out your Halloween decor for an afternoon snack. A friend also said spraying pumpkins with varnish will deter pesky animals and insects. Varnish is not as eco-friendly as vinegar, and she said that the process needs to be done in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside.
Prevent Bottom Rot – Have you ever stored your pumpkins on the concrete floor of your garage or on a stone patio? You may notice that the bottom of the pumpkin disintegrates into a mushy mess. Place pumpkins on racks elevated off the ground, like a cooling rack used for baking or a baker’s shelf.
Time Pumpkin Carving – Carve pumpkins one or two days before Halloween or your Halloween party. Carving weakens pumpkins and leads to rot. A tip I learned online from a cucurbitologist (pumpkin expert) is to spray the inside of the carved pumpkin with lemon juice to preserve the color.
If you have any other tips for preventing Halloween pumpkin horrors, I would love to hear from you in the Comments section!