Home & Garden

Picking the best Halloween pumpkin

Author: Canadian Living

Home & Garden

Picking the best Halloween pumpkin

Pumpkins symbolize my two favourite occasions: Thanksgiving and Halloween. Technically, pumpkins are fruits, but most people consider them to be vegetables.

Pumpkins aren't as cool as a cucumber, but they come from the same family; both are members of the Cucurbita family of plants. Similar to cucumbers, pumpkins are made up of mostly water – up to 90 per cent. They're also full of potassium and vitamin A.

Here are some tips for harvesting your pumpkins:
• Look at the colour and rind. Pumpkins are ready to harvest when their colour is uniform and the rind, or skin, is firm.

• Always harvest pumpkins before a hard frost. Temperatures below -5°C will damage the rind and shorten a pumpkin's shelf life.

• Cut pumpkins from the vine. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to remove the pumpkin, leaving enough of the vine to form a handle (20 to 30 centimetres long).

• Avoid carrying by the handle.

• Don't store pumpkins near ripe fruit. The ethylene released by the fruit will cause your pumpkins to rot faster.

• Avoid storing pumpkins in piles. This will create and trap unwanted heat, which stimulates rotting. A pumpkin that is harvested and stored properly can easily last up to two months.

Best of the bunch
If you don't grow your own and are heading out to the pumpkin patch, look for fresh pumpkins that don't have any cracks, signs of decay or soft, mushy sections.

The rind should be firm to the touch and consistent in colour. For carving, the larger the pumpkin the better. However, large pumpkins aren't the best for cooking because they tend to be tough and stringy.

My favourite choice for pumpkin carving is a short, stout pumpkin with a good handle. Once you've picked your pumpkin, go online to find an array of carving templates. One great site with free templates is pumpkinpatterns.ca.

Pumpkin-tastic facts
• Jane and Phil Hunt of Cameron, Ont., hold Canada's current record for the largest pumpkin grown. It weighed 761 kilograms.

• Pumpkins played a large role in the agricultural practices of native Americans.

• In the 1990s, the Lion's Club in Dartmouth, N.S., baked 442 pumpkin pies – from one pumpkin!

• Pumpkins were once thought to remove freckles and be a cure for snake bites.

• Roland, Man., is home to the world's largest pumpkin replica.

Frankie's 5 pumpkin picks
1. Atlantic Giant is a decorative variety of pumpkin that produces massive fruit exceeding 1.8 metres in diameter. The heaviest ever grown weighed 782 kilograms, officially making Atlantic Giant the world's largest pumpkin variety.

2. Baby Bear pumpkins are tiny and perfect for pies. These pumpkin seeds are almost hull-less and excellent for roasting.

3. Casper pumpkins have smooth, whitish rinds with an almost bluish tinge. They are both decorative and edible.

4. Black Futsu Japanese heirloom squashes turn a dark chestnut brown colour and are excellent when roasted.

5. Marina di Chioggia is an Italian heirloom squash with knobbly blue-green skin. Its sweet orange flesh is excellent in pies and baked goods.

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Home & Garden

Picking the best Halloween pumpkin

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