1. Know the design you are going to carve before you go looking for a pumpkin. Think about which shape would best suit your design...tall and narrow or flat and round?
2. Find a smooth, evenly colored pumpkin.
3. Remember to pick pumpkins up from the bottom, not from the stem as they can break off.
4. Make sure the pumpkin is firm, not soft in any way, and be sure to look over the entire pumpkin. Do not choose a pumpkin with any bruises, cuts, scratches or signs of mold. If you'll be using stencils, stay away from those with dents as well.
5. If you are going to use the insides for baking, look for smaller "sugar" pumpkins.
6. Find a pumpkin that has a hollow sound when you knock on it.
7. Make sure to stand the pumpkin upright by itself away from the other pumpkins to see how it will fare on it's own. If it doesn't sit level, you will end up having to prop it up and that could be dangerous if you want to put candles in it.
8. Handle With Care! Be careful not to slam your pumpkin down on the table or let it roll around in the back and get all banged up. Bruises inevitably shorten the life of a pumpkin.
9. Maintain your pumpkins by keeping them in a cool, dry place.
For those who don't know, pumpkins are members of the winter squash family, and can last quite a while in storage. For this reason you may want to draw a face on them for the weeks before Halloween, then carve them the week of, as it is only when they're carved that they begin to deteriorate rapidly.
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