The Best Pumpkins for Jack-O'-Lanterns

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Small, dense pumpkins are the best to cook with. For your jack-o lantern, you want a pumpkin that is taller, giving you space for your artwork, and with less flesh, making it easier to carve. There are three varieties of pumpkin that have been traditionally used for carving.

Jack O Lantern

Jack O Lantern pumpkins are a smaller heirloom variety that was bred specifically to carve into jack-o'-lanterns. The fruit is ribbed and a deep orange color. Each pumpkin weighs between 7 and 10 pounds and stands about 10 inches high. The vines grow to about 10 feet long. They can be trellised as long as you provide support for the hanging fruit. Because this is a smaller pumpkin, it can also be used for cooking.

Connecticut Field

Connecticut Field pumpkins are the original jack-o-lanterns. They were grown by the Native Americans prior to colonization by the Europeans and were part of the original Thanksgiving feast. The fruit is a deep orange color and more smooth than ribbed. Each one weighs between 15 and 20 pounds and stands between 12 and 18 inches high. They are easy to carve because the rind is very thin. Connecticut Field pumpkins have flat bottoms making them very stable and perfect for sitting on your porch or in your window.

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

  • Separate the seeds from the stringy flesh and wash them.
  • Soak them for a few hours in salt water.
  • Dry on a paper towel.
  • Season with salt or seasoning or your choice.
  • Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Roast in a 350°F oven until golden brown.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Howden

Howden pumpkins were developed by John Howden in his backyard garden in Massachusetts in the 1960s. They have become the classic jack-o'-lantern pumpkin. These are the pumpkins that you most often see offered for sale in stores. The fruit is deep orange and ribbed and can weigh up to 30 pounds. They have the flat bottoms and thin rinds of their Connecticut Field forebears but last longer after carving. The vines grow to 10 feet and produce 4 to 6 pumpkins on each vine.

Choosing and Carving Your Pumpkin

Choose a symmetrical, unblemished pumpkin with a long "handle" or, if you are harvesting from your garden, when cutting from the vine, leave enough to form a long handle. Pumpkins with long handles will last longer. Short or non-existent handles result in the fruit rotting quickly.

Cut the top off the pumpkin making a hole that is large enough for you to comfortably get your hand into. This will make it easier to scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds. After you have completely cleaned out your pumpkin, find its best side and draw your design on the outside with washable marker. Carve out your design with a sharp knife.

Once they are carved, pumpkins begin to deteriorate. You can extend their lifespan a few ways. During the day, keep your jack-o'-lantern out of the sunlight. At night, illuminate it with a small electric light rather than a candle. The heat from the candle speeds the decay. If you must have the authenticity of a candle, then only light it for a few hours each night.

© 2014 Caren White

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Comments 12 comments

beliza 2 years ago

Finding the perfect pumpkin is key to a great jack-o-lantern.


Pawpawwrites profile image

Pawpawwrites 2 years ago from Kansas

Excellent advice for picking a great pumpkin for a Jack O Lantern. It is that time of year, isn't it.


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

I totally agree, beliza. Thank you for reading and commenting.


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

Halloween is just around the corner. Thank you for reading and commenting.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Good info on the types of pumpkins...it'll soon be that time again. Thanks!


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

I'm glad you found it helpful, rebecca. Thank you for reading and commenting.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Voted up and more. I especially liked your recommendations on how to pick the best pumpkin and prolong your front porch jack o' lantern.


annieangel1 profile image

annieangel1 2 years ago from Yorkshire, England

it is getting to that time again!


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

So glad you found it helpful, Flourish. I put that tip in for parents who are looking for ways to make their children's creations last longer. Thank you for reading and commenting.


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

It certainly is Annie and I'm so looking forward to the cooler weather and colorful foliage. Thank for reading and commenting.


WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 years ago

Such a great guide. Sad to say, pumpkins suck where I live (subtropics, where 80+ degree Halloweens are the norm). If' I'm lucky I'll find a halfway decent one and keep it in the fridge. I'll carve it Halloween day and it's a pile of goo by the next day. That's one thing I miss about living up north, the awesome pumpkin season. Great hub, happy Halloween!


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

It's still a magical night even if you can't have pumpkins, Sage. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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