The frightfully festive holiday of Halloween is nearly upon us – and people are getting their spooky decorations in order.
If you’re prepping your Halloween lair, a carved pumpkin is a traditional essential – but they can also make pretty lanterns.
So, when is the best time to get your pumpkin, and how long will it last? And how can you stop it from going bad?
When’s the best time to buy a Halloween pumpkin?
Anytime in the month of October in the run-up to Halloween (October 31) is an appropriate time to purchase your jack-o-lantern.
If you haven’t already, get out to the shops and pick up your pumpkin now.
Pumpkins last eight to 12 weeks after they are picked, so if you already have yours, it will stay fresh for some time.
The key to perfect pumpkin selection is ensuring the one pick off the shelf is blemish-free.
If it has gouges, marks or soft-looking patches anywhere on it, this means it is not fresh.
Also look out for the texture. If the pumpkin is soft to touch, this could mean it’s starting to decay.
When is the right time to carve – and how long will the pumpkin last?
Once you decide on your pattern and outline it on the skin, it’s time to carefully carve.
When the pumpkin is fully carved and hollowed out, it will last around five to 10 days.
After this time, it’ll start to wilt and smell like the rotting vegetable that it technically is.
The more air circulation around your pumpkin the better, as the less air circulation the faster it will grow mould.
So, don’t carve your pumpkin before October 27, just to be on the safe (nice-smelling) side.
How to stop your carved pumpkin from rotting
Of course, it may not always be that easy to look after your Halloween pumpkin.
No matter if you bought at the perfect time, there’s still a chance you’ll have bad luck – and your pumpkin will start to rot.
The best way to tackle this is by prevention – before you carve or as soon as you have scooped out the insides.
Before carving your gourd, time things very carefully. If your full pumpkin is starting to look a bit questionable, wait as long as you can before carving – so it has a chance to make it to October 31.
If it’s looks (and feels) healthy, you can carve it earlier.
Then, when you reach the carving stage, there are a few extra measures you can take.
Firstly, try spraying the insides with peppermint dish soap as soon as you’ve made your spooky pumpkin face. Peppermint is anti-fungal and will slow the pumpkin’s breakdown.
Some people recommend smearing a touch of petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) on the edges you’ve carved to keep them fresh.
And if the face starts to droop, or look a bit sad, you’ll need to rehydrate the pumpkin to stop it from fully wilting.
Popping a pumpkin in the fridge once it’s carved can help – particularly when wrapped in a bin bag to re-hydrate the lantern.
Another way to re-hydrate is to soak the pumpkin in a large bucket of cold water overnight.
Or spray with a few dabs of water every day, until November 1 rolls around.
What to do with leftover pumpkin guts after Halloween
You’ve carved your pumpkin and had your Halloween fun… but er, what about the pumpkin guts?
Yep, when you hollow out your pumpkin, what remains is a lump of orange fleshy bits and lots of pumpkin seeds.
There are plenty of uses for pumpkin seeds – like roasting them as a snack, popping them into other recipes or making yourself a DIY face scrub.
Luckily, there are several uses for pumpkin guts sans seeds – including adding them to a pumpkin bread recipe, such as this one from blogger Eating Richly.
If you enjoy a warming bowl of pumpkin soup, blending the guts and adding them to the recipe is a great idea. As is adding them to a thoroughly blended smoothie.
Relaxing face masks are a surprising use – but certainly not too difficult to achieve.
Simply add your favourite type of (face-safe) oil, honey or another ingredient you’d typically add to a DIY face mask (like these ones).
Add your pumpkin guts and give it a good blend until there’s a smooth, goopy consistency.
Apply gently to your face and there you have it.