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Firm pumpkins make best picks

They can be made right at home with the purchase of a pumpkin and some common kitchen tools found around most every home, said Susan Taylor.

Tuesday, October 19, 1999

They can be made right at home with the purchase of a pumpkin and some common kitchen tools found around most every home, said Susan Taylor.

Mrs. Taylor has been carving up pumpkins for nearly six years now, and she said that anybody can take part in this activity. Artistic talent is not required.

Some common items one would need to begin a pumpkin project include a large serving spoon and a paring knife, Mrs. Taylor said.

"I use a big serving spoon so that I can get more of the pulp out at one time," she said. "You’ll want to scrape the inside of the pumpkin so that it is about a half an inch thick. It’s easier to carve designs that way."

A firm pumpkin also is best for this type of project. Pumpkins tend to rot faster once they are carved, and the less ripe it is when purchased, the longer it tends to last once it’s cut, Mrs. Taylor said.

"And if you have a big tub, I would put them in water so they will stay fresher longer," she said. "You can also purchase a solution to put on the pumpkin, but I just set the pumpkin out at night when I want to light it, and then keep it in the water the rest of the time."

Once a pumpkin is purchased and the necessary tools are gathered, the only thing left to figure out is what type of design to use.

Designs will vary from person to person, and there is no such thing as a wrong one, Mrs. Taylor said.

"You can cut the usual Jack O’Lantern with the two eyes, nose and jagged-tooth mouth, or I use coloring books," she said. "I will take a picture from one of my children’s coloring books, tape it to the pumpkins and use a pencil to outline where I’m going to cut. Your imagination can run wild with the design of a pumpkin."

One year, Mrs. Taylor gave her father an extra-special birthday gift.

"I carved a picture of my father onto a pumpkin last year," she said. "You don’t have to just cut holes in the pumpkin. You also can shave the outer skin so that the light will filter through and create shadows. If you make the skin thinner in certain areas the light will shine through to give the illumination of a picture."

There are many different ways to carve a pumpkin, Martha Stewart recommends rings of holes in which to insert white Christmas tree lights. That idea is next on Mrs. Taylor’s list of pumpkin creations.

No matter what type of design a person chooses, however, the most important part of the project is to share it with family and friends, and have some fun, Mrs. Taylor said.

"There’s no artistic ability needed to carve pumpkins," she said. "The designs on a pumpkin can be anything. You don’t have to be an artist or able to draw to carve a pumpkin. All it takes is patience."

Once the pumpkin is finished, Mrs. Taylor recommends battery-operated or electrical single candelabra lights to avoid the fire hazard caused by candles in pumpkins. If a candle is preferred, she recommends votive candles, and the pumpkin should not be left unattended.

And to increase the lifetime of the pumpkin, Mrs. Taylor has one other bit of advice.

"The best way to carve a pumpkin is to carve a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin," she said. "That way you can sit it on top of a candle or electric light. And the pumpkin seems to last longer that way."