Pumpkins are one of the oldest plants to be cultivated by humans. The anthropologist, Logan Kistler, hypothesized that pumpkins owe their existence today to the help of ancient North American farmers over 7,000 years ago! Kistler and his team think that before human cultivation, the Cucurbita (Latin for gourd) depended on large mammals like mammoths, mastadons, and ground sloths to eat and then spread their seeds after digestion. It seems that smaller animals were not adapted to ingest the then bitter flavor of these fruits. When the large mammals were becoming extinct, humans stepped in to form a symbiotic relationship with these gourds. The early farmers used these Cucurbita for containers and possibly even floatation devices for fishnets. Sometimes they ate the fruit and replanted the seeds of the most palatable varieties. Eventually the fruit evolved to become the tasty and iconic fall treat we love today! Find tips on picking the perfect pumpkin, carving ideas, recipes, and the history of pumpkins related October holidays!
*Fun Fact* The largest pumpkin ever recorded weighed over 2,600 pounds!
Find Your Pumpkin
First things first. You have to know what to look for when pumpkin patch plucking. Healthy pumpkins grow in all colors, shapes, and sizes but different colored pumpkins have different qualities and meanings. If you see trick or treaters holding a plastic blue pumpkin, for example, it likely means that the child is autistic and/or has trouble communicating verbally. The Purple Pumpkin Project has picked purple to raise awareness of epilepsy. A teal pumpkin may indicate that the owner has food allergies. Orange and white pumpkins taste the same, but white pumpkins are easier to carve and more saucer shaped. Whatever color you choose, for carving, you want a pumpkin that has a firm, hard rind and as few cracks as possible. A good pumpkin can last outdoors for months!
Carving Tools and Tips
1. Key Hole Saw – for the lid and the simple cuts.
*Tip* Cutting out the lid from the bottom will make it easier to clean out the guts as well as making your pumpkin less likely to cave in.
2. Large metal spoon – for cleaning out the guts.
3. Power drill or awl – for small holes.
4. Hole cutters – for larger holes.
5. Chisels or linoleum carving tool – for shaving designs.
6. Melon baller – for shaving circles.
7. Ice pick – for mapping out your design before carving.
*Tip* Don’t use a permanent marker on your pumpkin. You can also tape a piece of paper with your design to your pumpkin before mapping.
8. Cookie Cutters – for fun shapes like stars.
23 Carving Ideas
1. Haunted House – Cut out the windows of your painted house.
2. Harvest Moon – Use cookie cutters to add stars to this simple design.
3. Fairy House – Glue marbles into acorn tops for light fixtures. Flat rocks can make tiny stairs, and toothpicks for window muttons can make a humble little abode. Shave a garden scene around the sides!
4. Faux Bois – Faux bois means fake wood. You can shave a a Faux bois design with a linoleum carver after sketching. Paint the unshaved parts black to really make it pop!
5. Marquee Sign – After shaving your sign shape and text, cut or drill holes the shape of your string light sockets. After removing the bulbs, insert sockets into holes from the inside of the pumpkin. Reattach bulbs and run the chord out through the back of the pumpkin!
6. Constellation – Paint pumpkin black and cut out the lid. Use white chalk to outline your favorite constellation and draw surrounding stars. Drill holes where the stars are in your constellation. Insert battery powered string lights through the holes.
7. Simple Sign – Use a black paint pen to write your text. Etch out the outline of the text and insert candle.
8. Twisted Vines – Using a linoleum carving tool, etch out twisty vines with leaves all over your pumpkin.
9. Vampire hair! Carve a vampire face into a white pumpkin. Cut out a widow’s peak hairdo from the top of another, larger pumpkin and place it atop the smaller one.
10. Witch – You will need 3 pumpkins, a cape of black felt, string, and a witch’s hat. After carving or painting the face on one, stack the pumpkins and place the carved/painted one on top. Wrap the black felt around the “neck” and tie with string.
11. Lollipop Head – After carving the face, use an awl to poke holes through the top and sides about 1 ½ inches apart. Insert your Lollipops!
12. Floating Ghost – This one works best with butternut squash. After carving the face just under the stem, carve a zig zag pattern all around the base so the ghost “floats.” A simple platform for the candle can be made inside with skewers.
13. Grave Yard – Create and sketch a template including crosses and in scripted grave stones.
14. Inferno – Use flame templates to carve out flames at the bases of several pumpkins. Then stack smaller pumpkins on top of larger ones for a hellish effect.
15. Mummy Pumpkin – Cut off the top of your white pumpkin and clean out the guts. Slice pumpkin horizontally all the way around starting from 1-2 inches from the first cut. Repeat 4 to 6 times all the way around so that you have several 1-2 inch rings. Leaving the top and bottom pieces the same, separate the rest and restack them in a different order. Rotate the pieces until you have the shape you like. Carve out eyes and a mouth. Secure rings with toothpicks.
16. Porcupine Pumpkin – Cut out four round pieces from another squash for feet. Attaching them with toothpicks will stabilize your porcupine. Using an oval shaped squash for the body, frame the face by inserting skewers all over the rest. Glue acorns tops for the eyes and nose.
17. Skeleton Arm and Hand – Using one larger (for the arm) and one smaller (for the hand) pumpkin, trim the stem of the larger one so the smaller one rests on top. Etch out the two arm bones reaching up from the bottom pumpkin to connect with the etched out hand bones on the top pumpkin.
18. Blood Drip Candles. The melting wax dripping from red candles on top of little white Jack-O-Lanterns will look really gory.
19. Address – Carve your address into your pumpkin so guests can easily find your Halloween party.
20. Ice Bucket – Chill some blood red wine in a pumpkin filled with Ice.
21. Tinker Bell – Cut out the outline of Tinker Bell and punch a trail of holes behind her for fairy dust!
22. Exposed Brain – A smaller orange pumpkin carved up like a brain can rest in the top of a zombified larger pumpkin.
23. Cannable Pumpkin – Stuff a tiny pumpkin betwixt the jaws of a larger larger one with an angry face.
Pumpkin Days and Recipes
You better get your gorgeous gourds quick, because National Pumpkin Seed Day is the first Wednesday of October (the 6th this year). Pumpkin seeds are super healthy for you, but we cannot exactly say that for this recipe:
Whiskey Bacon Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- 1 cup of pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup of your favorite whiskey
- 1 tbsp. and 1 tsp of bacon grease
- 2 tsps of sugar
- 4 drops of molasses (brown or dark sugar will work in a pinch)
- 1-1 ¼ tspn of sea salt
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
- Heat a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat and stir in the whiskey, bacon grease, sugar, molasses and salt.
- Stir in seeds and coat well.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. It is normal for the seeds to turn gray in the middle.
- Drain the seeds and spread them out in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours until seeds are crip and browned.
You should have just enough time to work off that guilty pleasure before National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day on October 21st.
Ingredients for the crust
- 1 ¼ cups of finely ground graham-cracker crumbs (10 whole crackers should about do the trick)
- ¼ cup of sugar
- 4 tblsps of unsalted, melted butter
Ingredients for the filling
- 4 8 ounce packages of very soft bar cream cheese
- 1 ¼ cups of sugar
- 3 tbspns of all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of pumpkin puree (canned)
- 2 tblspns of pumpkin-pie spice
- 1 tbspn of vanilla extract
- ½ tspn of salt
- 4 large, room temperature eggs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Assemble a 9-inch nonstick springform pan with the raised side of the bottom facing up.
- In a medium bowl, mix crumbs, sugar, and butter until moist. Press firmly into the bottom of the pan and bake on center rack for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are golden.
- Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric beater on slow speed until smooth. Mix in flour careful not to overmix. Add puree, spice, vanilla, and salt. Mix until smooth. Add eggs one at a time incorporating each one before adding the next.
- Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into spring form and smooth the top gently. Transfer to oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn oven off and let cheesecake stay in for 2 more hours (without opening).
- Remove from oven and let it cool completely. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
After these nibbles, only bumpkins and lumpkins wouldn’t want more pumpkins! October 26th is National Pumpkin Day. This would be a perfect opportunity to trick the young ones with a torch lit legend of Stingy Jack or treat them with the more wholesome tradition of sitting around the fire with family and watching the Peanuts special, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! Either way, have a safe, spooky, and pumpkin stuffed October!
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