Halloween pumpkins are great fun, but a lot of work, too. After spending so much time on your spooky masterpiece, you want it to last through Halloween. Here are tips for embalming Jack O’Lantern so that he’s around for the festivities.
The main ideas:
- Keep your pumpkin free of bacteria, mold, and bugs
- Seal off cut/carved surfaces from oxygen
- Keep your pumpkin hydrated and cool
How to keep your pumpkin free from mold
Before you start cutting, wipe your pumpkin down so all the dust and dirt from the field is off. This might also improve the color of your pumpkin skin.
After you carve your pumpkin, there are several options. Let’s start with the cheap one:
– Bleach is great for keeping mold away. Mix together 1/4 cup bleach with 1 quart water in a spray bottle. Spray your pumpkin generously inside and out. Let it sit for about 20 minutes, then dry off the excess bleach solution.
– Pumpkin Fresh is a spray on product that claims to preserve, protect and resist mold. This doesn’t appear to be available in stores, so order ahead if you plan on using Pumpkin Fresh. You need to spray your pumpkin every day with this to get the results claimed by the company. A 4oz bottle is $4.99 plus shipping and handling, which was $4.85 if shipped to my address. Total for the 4oz spray bottle – $9.84.
– If you prefer natural ingredients, use a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and water. The acidity in the lemon juice will not only help keep mold from growing, but will harden the outside just a bit.
How to seal your pumpkin
Sealing off any carved or cut edges on your pumpkin is really important. In order to extend the life of your carved masterpiece, it’s necessary to keep bacteria and oxygen off all the cut areas. You can do this by rubbing down the inside and any cut surfaces with petroleum jelly (Vaseline). If you’re going to use a battery operated light in your pumpkin, you could also use cooking oil. DO NOT use cooking oil if you are planning on burning a candle in your pumpkin as it could catch on fire. Sealing your pumpkin might seem messy, but it will keep out bacteria and mold and keep in the moisture. For best results, do it as soon as you’ve finished the spraying step.
Pumpkin preservation kit
Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you might want to use a pumpkin preservation kit to keep your pumpkin looking fresh for longer. Pumpkin Dunk’N can be ordered online for $4.25 per package. What you get is a packet of powder that mixes with 3 gallons of water in a 5 gallon bucket. Soak your pumpkin, which should be 12″ or smaller, for 24 hours. Drain, polish with a soft cloth, and your pumpkin could last up to 15 days. You can use the solution for multiple pumpkins, so it might be worth it if you’re making a whole collection.
Tips for longer lasting carved pumpkins
– Keep the shell of your pumpkin as thick as possible. Try not to scrape away too much of the inside when you’re taking out the seeds. The thin walls will lose their moisture and shape much quicker, no matter what you do to try to stop it.
– Keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight, preferably somewhere cool.
– During the times your pumpkin isn’t on display, keep it in the fridge, if you have room, or at least a cool place, like the garage. Wrap your pumpkin with a damp cloth until it’s time to bring it out again.
– Use battery operated tea lights or special pumpkin lights instead of candles. Candles heat up your pumpkin and encourage the growth of mold and cause the pulp to get soft and rot more quickly. Battery operated candles are safer and if you’ve used oil to seal your pumpkin, it won’t catch on fire.
Following these tips can help your pumpkin stay fresh for up to two weeks, depending on how warm it is where you live.
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