Picking the Perfect Pumpkin

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
October 27, 2016

Halloween is just days away, and if you’re like me, you’ve waited until the last minute to pick out your pumpkins for carving. Here’s a few tips on selecting a pumpkin from K-State Research and Extension horticulturist Ward Upham, who recommends the simple fingernail test.

“Take your fingernail and just push it lightly into the rind,” Upham said. “If that rind is soft, it’ll penetrate it very easily. That pumpkin is not mature and that pumpkin will not last. What you want is a pumpkin that when you try to push your fingernail into it has some resistance.”

Upham says to avoid pumpkins that are not a uniform orange or that have spots. If you're going to carve a face in a pumpkin, go for an oblong shape instead of a round one. And find a pumpkin with a flat bottom, so it sits well.

If you’re buying pumpkins for an outdoor fall display, obviously they’ll last longer in a cool location. Also, clean them with a one-to-four solution of bleach to kill any disease organisms. Upham also suggests applying a coat of wax.

“Now, you can use just regular wax, or what a lot of people use is just hairspray,” Upham explained. “You just need something in order to coat that pumpkin to give it a better appearance as well as protect it from any other disease organisms that happen to be around.”

Growers often wax the pumpkins themselves to increase sales. In that case, Upham says all you need to do is take a wet cloth and wipe off any dirt or debris.