COLLEGE STATION — Halloween is on the way, now is the time to haunt the local supermarket and let each ghost and goblin pick out a pumpkin.
Pumpkin pickers know that selecting the right pumpkin for a jack- o-lantern is crucial to their project. Finding the perfect pumpkin requires patience, skill and knowledge.
Consumers can choose between two common varieties: small sugar pumpkins and jumbo large field types.
The larger pumpkins provide the best canvas for carving while the smaller varieties can be used to create decorative arrangements. “For carving jack-o-lanterns, select Happy Jack, Halloween or Spookie varieties, which are larger than 12 inches and weigh 20 to 40 pounds,” said Dymple Cooksey, Extension nutrition specialist. “These are too coarse, stringy and dry for eating.”
For a vibrant centerpiece, try a collection of miniature pumpkins, decorative Indian corn and an array of colorful gourds.
“Pumpkins make great decorations,” Cooksey said. “They come in all sizes and shapes and add shapes and add a wonderful fall touch to the office, home and at parties.”
Be on the lookout for any blemishes, or decay spots on the pumpkin. Once home, store the pumpkin in a cool dry spot until ready to carve.
After gracing the gourd with a ghoulish grin be sure to keep the pumpkin seeds. Instead of throwing them away, try the seeds as a snack. Wash the seeds well. Spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet to dry. Then, roast them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are dry. Dot with butter and brown for 5 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Stir often until toasted. Sprinkle with salt, cool and serve.
According to Cooksey, cooked pumpkin seeds can be stored safely in a jar with a lid and saved for an enjoyable snack.
Pumpkins do not have to wear a ghoulish grin to be decorative. A cluster of pumpkins on the front porch always adds a touch of fall and an air of festivity.