Pumpkins—the very word conjures fun memories of Hallowe’en and warm images of the Thanksgiving table. Whether they are flickering spookily on your darkened front porch or they are adorning your home for a burst of autumn colour, these bright orange orbs are the crowning glory of the fall season.
Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes. When it comes to which Jack you are going to carve into your O’Lantern, the possibilities are limitless. In terms of the carving surface of your pumpkin, we like to refer to our favourite Sesame Street characters to describe the two ends of the spectrum: you can Tall Like Bert, or you can Round Like Ernie. Of course, there are a range of shapes in between, so personal preference plays a key factor in the “which is best” debate.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pumpkin carving. It is your masterpiece, after all. You create it your way. To help you decide, here are some tips to consider when choosing your perfect pumpkin.
Pre-Picked or Pick Your Own?
In York Durham Headwaters, we are lucky to be in a region where pumpkins are grown. Here, you can choose whether you will pick yours direct from the field, from an on-farm market, or from the supermarket. All three of these are great options, and which source you go with depends on your schedule and your interest level. With pre-picked pumpkins, you have an immediate range from which to make your selection. They are usually arranged in easy-to-view displays, or are grouped by size so that you can visually compare one golden surface to another.
If you are picking your own from the field, you will likely have to spend some time searching for your prize fruit. Most pumpkin patches are large, which means you will need to be prepared to cover a good amount of ground—possibly in rainboots or other sturdy footwear. Don’t let this deter you from the pumpkin patch, however. Sometimes your perfect pumpkin has nothing to do with its shape. A day spent beneath a rural sky, with the scent of autumn in the air, is bound to provide you with a symphony of experiences and lifelong memories. And with the on-farm activities that our pumpkin growers offer its visitors, you can fill a whole day with your pumpkin picking adventure.
The Carving Surface
If you are a beginner at carving Jack O’Lanterns, or if you are planning an ambitious stencil, then your best bet is to choose a smooth pumpkin. Most field pumpkins grown for pick-your-own or sold in stores are bred specifically for decorative purposes. The Howden pumpkin is a popular variety. Its flesh tends to be less dense which makes carving easier.
But Howdens and their like are not the exclusive domain of carved masterpieces. Really, you can carve any pumpkin if you have the right tools, a bit of skill, and the right utensil. Sugar or pie pumpkins are smaller and denser than their Howden counterparts. In recent years, heirloom varieties of pumpkins have begun to return to popularity. If you want a witch- or goblin-like appearance for your creation and you don’t mind carving around a few bumps, then pimpled pumpkins like the Warty Goblin or the Maria Di Chioggia might be the variety for you.
Maybe you’re a trend-setter. Maybe orange is not your colour. If you imagine your perfect pumpkin coming in a shade other than a classic orange, consider these varieties:
- Cinderella – a deeply-ribbed pumpkin that has a flattened appearance and a reddish hue
- Kakai – a Japanese pumpkin that is grey with orange stripes
- Casper – a squat pumpkin with bright-white skin and slight ribbing
- Fairytale – an old French pumpkin that resembles the Cinderella, but with green skin
To Carve or Not to Carve
Who says you want to actually carve your perfect pumpkin? Thanks to the Internet, you can find endless ideas on how to decorate your home with pumpkins for the season—whether it’s Hallowe’en or Thanksgiving, or if you’re just in an autumn-y mood.
To add a splash of fall colour to your home, try stacking mini pumpkins in a cylindrical jar on your mantel or end tables. Baby-Boos, Jack-be-Littles and Munchkins are just some examples of the varieties of miniature pumpkins you can find on farms and in stores around York Durham Headwaters. Fill your china hutch with uniquely shaped fruits like Turbans and gourds. Who needs logs in a fireplace? Carve some flame-like decorations into your perfect pumpkin—maybe even a bunch of ’em—stack them in your fireplace and fill them with lighted candles.
You don’t need to carve your pumpkin to make it a masterpiece.
Don’t Forget to Save the Seeds
Wait! Stop! Halt! That stringy, slippery goop you’re pulling out of your freshly-carved Jack O’Lantern? Don’t throw it away. Spend a little time pulling the seeds from the pulp for a wonderful fall treat. If you salt and roast your seeds, we bet you will be munching on those delicious babies for weeks after Hallowe’en is over. After all, what better way is there to remember your perfect pumpkin?
Keep in mind that due to COVID-19 precautions, some of the activities may not be fully available, as well, you may need to purchase tickets online – make sure you check the locations website for more information to ensure a safe visit for all.
Story by Katherine Ryalen