Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins, it’s the fall and there are pumpkins everywhere. Pumpkins on signs, on billboards, on TV, on farm stands, on posters for seasonal events, you can pick your own, you can paint them, you can carve them, you can eat them and you can eat their seeds after you roast them. And, everyone seems to like pumpkins. Pumpkins, are an icon of this season and everyone wants their own. If you are young or old, rich or poor, or of either gender you most likely want a pumpkin to call your own to do with it what you will.
I have always gotten a pumpkin, from a roadside stand or in a farm market. Or, I have wandered around in fields looking for that special pumpkin with my special lady who was looking for her special pumpkin. I have gone through the ritual of bring it home and trying to decide whether to carve it or leave it “natural”. I have tried to come up with elaborate ideas to carve and other years just gone with the triangular eyes and nose with the simple 4 tooth mouth carving. Some of my pumpkins have been large and some have been small. A friend of mine carves pumpkins every year for his employees, one year we gave him a carving kit that was made just for pumpkin carving. It had all kinds of tools, blades and saws for the purpose. I have held onto a few of my smaller carved pumpkins and I let them dry out, turning them into wrinkled up shrunken pumpkin heads, which were really neat.
Pumpkins can be hard to carve and here are a few suggestions for carving them:
1. Before you get out your supplies or even buy the pumpkin get an idea of what you want the pumpkin to look like when you are ready to display it. Figure out what image you want to carve or paint, so, you can pick your pumpkin accordingly. I have never painted a pumpkin so my suggestions are about carving.
2. Once you have a clear idea what you want to do, it will be easier to pick out the right pumpkin.
3. After you get the pumpkin get a plastic bag that is white and place it over the area of the pumpkin that you want to carve tape it in place. Draw what you want to carve onto the plastic bag with a marker. This way you make your mistakes on the bag and not the pumpkin. Once you are done and satisfied with the drawing, mark where the bag was on the pumpkin and remove it.
4. Now cut the top of the pumpkin and clean out the seeds and other stuff from the inside of the pumpkin. You may need to scrape hard to get some of this out. You can grab these seeds out of this stuff and roast or bake them, salt them, if you like, and eat them taking the shells off of the meat of the seed. They are good and healthy for you.
5. Now re-align the plastic bag with the markings on the bag and pumpkin and tape the bag back in place on the pumpkin. Now, you can carefully and deliberately cut the design you have on the bag into the pumpkin. Or, if you prefer to, you could cut the design out of the bag first and draw the design on the pumpkin in marker, and carve out the marker lines you have just drawn on the pumpkin. The idea is that the bag is a template for what you want the design to be and here are 2 ways to transfer it to the pumpkin. One cutting the design in the pumpkin through the bag and pumpkin at the same time. And, 2 cutting the design out of the bag and using the bag as template to draw the design on the pumpkin to be cut out with the bag removed.
6. Pumpkin is hard to carve, so if you have and elaborate design it may be easier to use the cutting of the design on the bag out first, and then draw the design in marker on the pumpkin and then remove the bag and cut away the black from the pumpkin. Be sure to cut all the way though the meat and skin of the pumpkin to the open cavity inside. If you cut all the way through the meat and skin of the pumpkin the light of a candle will show through for the really nice jack-o-lantern effect.
7. You will probably need a variety of knives, with different blades of different sizes. This is why a kit with tools made for the purpose it good. If you really enjoy pumpkin carving, you would probably better off with a kit made for carving pumpkins, the kit will have a variety of tools that would make the carving easier and safer. There are also books dedicated to the art of pumpkin carving, see the link below.
8. This is the key to carving a pumpkin, TAKE YOUR TIME, whenever you rush any thing the odds of you messing it up increase.
9. Did I mention that you should TAKE YOUR TIME? You are working with some sharp knives and other tools and they will cut you easier than they will cut pumpkin. Keep your hands and fingers behind the blade and never cut in your direction. Do NOT carve a pumpkin in your lap.
10. If children are working on carving pumpkins with you, supervise them and show them how to be careful. Do NOT leave a child alone with a pumpkin and some knives.
11. Just as you should not cut towards yourself, you should be careful that kids are not grabbing at what you are cutting and that you are not cutting in the direction of others including children and pets.
12. Please look at my article about knife safety before you carve your pumpkin to refresh yourself about some safety ideas for handling knives.
I hope your pumpkin comes out just as you planned and that you enjoy this icon of the season. It is a versatile vegetable that is colorful and fun, it has a lot going for it. Enjoy!
Buy Some Pumpkin Carving Kits and Books at Amazon!