Families will soon flock to pumpkin patches in the area in search of the perfect pumpkin. But experts agree that finding the perfect pumpkin depends entirely on its intended purpose.
"In making a selection of pumpkins, I first consider where I will use the pumpkins," said master gardener Mary Louise Hagler.
"Will I put it on the dining room table, outside for jack-o'-lanterns or outside to fill a vintage garden urn?"
Soft spots, which indicate rotting, are a common problem in pumpkins. When looking for the right pumpkin, be sure to check it carefully. If a soft spot is found, skip that pumpkin and move on to the next.
Cracks and splits are another thing to avoid. They often indicate that there is a soft spot in the pumpkin or that mold could be growing in the crack.
Finally, holes in pumpkins may indicate insect problems.
Hagler, who grows pumpkins at her country garden in Burke County, said most pumpkins will last through Thanksgiving if they are not carved.
"Once carved, though, they usually become victim to rotting," she said.
When choosing pumpkins for jack-o'-lanterns, some suggest knowing first what the carved design will be. Knowing this makes selecting the perfect pumpkin much easier.
The design should fill up nearly the entire face of the pumpkin.
"Jack-o'-lanterns or easy-to-carve pumpkins are all over," said Hagler. "They are a deep orange, smooth and have very little unique variation."
Pumpkins aren't just for jack-o'-lanterns, though, Hagler points out.
"Buy a unique pumpkin or two to add curb appeal to your fall porch arrangement," she said. "Combine pumpkins, ornamental squash and Indian corn for your outdoor decorations.
Add some ornamental cabbage, pansies and corn stalks to your outdoor arrangements to really make the pumpkins pop."
For cooking purposes, Hagler said, it's far simpler to use canned pumpkin.
"Truly, you can't do much better than canned pumpkin for baking," she said. "You don't have to deal with the mess of scooping out the innards and removing the seeds.
However, the pumpkin seeds do make a healthy snack when seasoned and baked."
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