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Lots of uses for pumpkins

Be certain to match pumpkin type with activity

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Posted: Friday, October 5, 2012 4:12 pm

 While the apple crop may have struggled this year, there are many pumpkins out there that are looking for a nice home to brighten up.

 “The best time to come to get them would probably be this weekend or next weekend,” said Ryan Spicer of Spicer Orchards in Hartland Township.

 When picking out a pumpkin, it is important to first know what you are using it for, as that can change the criteria you are looking for.

 To make the perfect jack-o’-lantern, you will want a pumpkin that is healthy and firm so that it will hold up over time. However, you also do not want a pumpkin that’s outer shell is so hard that it is difficult to cut into.

 Soft spots, wrinkles and open cuts are all good indicators of a pumpkin that will spoil early. A green stem and consistent coloring throughout the pumpkin’s skin are traits possessed by a healthy pumpkin with the potential to be a great jack-o’-lantern.

 If you don’t quite feel like carving a pumpkin, or have a child who is too young to do so, painting a pumpkin is an available alternative.

AllAboutPumpkins.com recommends buying an orange smoothie, cotton candy, or lumina pumpkin for those looking to paint, as they are known for being varieties of pumpkins with the smoothest skin and shallow ribbing.

 When you have found your pumpkin of choice, avoid carrying it by the stem as it can easily break up, and cause your pumpkin to rot faster.

 Knowing when to transform your hand-picked pumpkin into a hand-carved jack-o’-lantern is also important. “I tell them to wait until the last week or so to carve them,” said Nick Nichols of Oakhaven Farm. If done too early, your hard work and craftsmanship may start to rot away before trick-or-treaters even get to see it.

 Carving a pumpkin can seem like a more difficult task than it really is. Though hollowing out the pumpkin can be a little messy, you do not need to be artistically gifted to make a good looking jack o’lantern. Websites such as marthastewart.com have many different templates you can use to make scary or funny looking pumpkins, depending on your tastes.

 Before painting a pumpkin, wash it to make certain you will be working on a clean surface. Acrylic paints will work best on the somewhat unusual surface. If you plan on placing the pumpkin outside, applying a varnish to the finished pumpkin can help protect it from the weather.

 After finishing your work of art, you will need to find the right place to show it off. “Don’t set them on cement,” Spicer said. “Set them on a rubber mat or something soft. If you set them on a hard surface they tend to rot faster.”

 After Halloween comes and goes, you will find yourself with a pumpkin in an increasing state of decay. Nichols suggests that when you are done with your pumpkin, look to find a way to recycle it. Pumpkins make for great compost materials, adding lots of nutrients to the soil.

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