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How to carve a pumpkin

About 29 milllion pumpkins will be carved in American homes this year for Halloween.

CarvedPumpkin Are you satisfied with your pumpkin carving abilities? Need some tips on how to create the perfect pumpkin?

Here are steps to follow to get great carving results:

  • Assemble the tools you’ll need – large and small knives, ice pick or nail, large spoon or ladle, patterns, masking tape, saw, candles, and candle holders. Update: It's better to buy a pumpkin carving kit than use knives. They aren't expensive, and the tools are generally safer than using knives.
  • Cut the pumpkin open and remove the seeds and inner membranes. Save the seeds if you want to make roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Cut the top of the pumpkin off in a jagged way or hexagon, and cut at an angle, so it creates a small ledge for the lid to rest on. If you cut in a circle, the top will fall through when you put the lid on. Another option is to cut a small hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, discard the piece, and place the pumpkin over the candle. Setting the pumpkin on its side and using the stem for the nose is another idea.
  • Remove the insides and scrape away at the pumpkin until the walls are about one-inch thick.
  • Mark your design with a crayon or washable pen. If you’re using a pattern, attach it with masking tape.
  • Use a nail, ice pick, or other sharp pointed object to transfer the pattern onto the face of the pumpkin, if you're using one. Press the tip through the design lines on the paper about 1/8 inch apart.
  • Saw slowly and gently to make your design. Start at the center and work your way outward. Each time you remove a piece of the design the pumpkin gets weaker. If something falls off, put toothpicks in the area that broke off, then push it back into place.
  • Use battery-operated candles or put candles in a glass container. You can cut a small hole in the pumpkin lid to let smoke and steam escape.
  • Keep your pumpkin moist by soaking it in water overnight. Another idea is to coat all cut surfaces with petroleum jelly right after carving, including the entire inside of the pumpkin. The petroleum jelly acts as a barrier to seal in the moisture to help slow down the dehydration process.

See Washington State University Extension’s “Pumpkin Carving” for more information.

Happy carving. I hope you have great results this year.

Copyright 2010, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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