The Perfect Pumpkin for Cooking or Carving

Tips Far Beyond Pumpkin Pie and Jack-O-Lanterns

NEW YORK, NY, OCTOBER 17 – Pumpkins are to Fall as Santa Claus is to Christmas. Pumpkin production, which climbed to 1.5 billion pounds in 2010, reaches its peak in October as Americans prepare to celebrate Halloween. As pumpkins have become ingrained into our Halloween and Thanksgiving cultures, the number of creative ways to use and enjoy them has increased.

Dawn Bryan, author of the best-selling book The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving, and founder of Qualipedia™ the definitive source for making choices daily that count, offers the following tips including how to grow, pick, carve, eat, store, use for activities, along with  proverbs and wacky facts.

Grow Pumpkins:
  • A seasonal, warm weather crop, pumpkins require warm soil that holds water well and at least one bee hive per acre for adequate pollination. 
  • Milk-fed Pumpkins: Question: Why feed your pumpkin milk? Answer: To grow bigger pumpkins.  Question: How can milk help? Answer: Although milk does not have any properties that directly increase pumpkin size, it keeps your pumpkins healthy and free of disease.
  • There are three ways to milk-feed your pumpkin:
    • Wick: Pour two percent milk with a tablespoon of sugar into a small covered pan or bowl, insert one end of wick or string into a small slit in the pumpkin stem and the other into the pan which is in a small hole next to the pumpkin.
    • Injection: You can also use a syringe to inject the milk into the stem.
    • Pour: Use milk as fertilizer by mixing with manure or pour a cup of milk around the roots daily.
Pick a Perfect Pumpkin:
  • A mature pumpkin will be difficult to scratch, bright orange, have a green stem and be fully hardened.
  • A shiny skin indicates that it was picked too soon; also check for scaring, soft spots and bruises. 
  • For Eating: Look for a pumpkin which feels heavy for its size, as it will tend to have more dense, edible flesh. Popular "pie pumpkins" include the Small Sugar (also known as Sugar Pie, New England Pie, and Northern Pie), Winter Luxury, Cinderella, The Cheese, and Golden Cushaw.
  • For Painting: The best pumpkins for painting have smooth skin and shallow ribbing. The varieties Orange Smoothie, Cotton Candy, and Lumina are excellent for painting.
  • For Carving: Choose a pumpkin with structural strength, flat bottom, sturdy stem, and ability to last several days after being carved. It will sound hollow when tapped. 
Carve Pumpkins:
  • Carving pumpkins can be accomplished with a variety of tools such as regular kitchen knives.
  • However, in recent years inventors have patented tools made solely for this purpose; in addition to the cutting tools, some kits contain design templates and detailed instructions.
  • Choosing specialty pumpkins such as giant, miniature, unusual shapes, or white pumpkins (spooky) can add to the originality.  The most popular carvings are of the Jack-O-Lantern variety.
  • To carve a good Jack-O-Lantern, you need grease pencils for pre-marking; patterns -- your own or those you can download from the internet; gutting spoons for scooping; a long, thin-bladed boning knife to cut out the top and other large pieces; and a very sharp small paring knife for detail work. 
  Pumpkins for Food:  
  • Pumpkins have become a part of the cuisine of many countries throughout the world: Roasted with other vegetables in Australia and New Zealand, in tempura in Japan, for ravioli stuffing in Italy, as a cooked vegetable in China, and served as a sweet dessert in Thailand, India, and the Middle East.
  • Eat only when ripe.
  • Fresh pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, micro-waved, or roasted and is frequently mashed or pureed before combining it with other ingredients.
  • Desserts include pumpkin pie, crème brulee, mousse, gingerbread, cupcakes, and cheesecakes.
  • Other favorites include the pumpkin martini, sweet and sour pumpkin, and pumpkin soup. 
 Pumpkin Activities:
  • Pumpkins can be carved, painted, dressed, lacquered, or decorated with a variety of beads, sequins, ribbons, and fabric. Paint and marker pens can help to create interesting and scary faces.
  • American pumpkin culture has grown to include a variety of family-oriented events in towns across the country. Check local listings for Pumpkin Festivals, Weigh offs, Pumpkin Carving and Painting Contests, Pumpkin Chunking, Pie Competitions, etc.
  Store and Preserve:
  • Store in a cool dry place (45 to 60 degrees F) for up to a month or refrigerate for up to three months.
  • Extra pumpkin for eating can be frozen, canned or dried for longer storage. Freezing is the easiest and results in the best quality product.
  • Carved pumpkin will begin to dry and shrivel as soon as it’s cut. To slow down the dehydration process and deter the onset of mold, coat all cut surfaces as well as the entire inside of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly. Coat the eyes, nose, and mouth or any other design you have carved out.
  Health Benefits
  • Pumpkins:  Fat-free, cholesterol free, a good source of vitamin C and an excellent source of vitamin A, the bright orange pumpkin shouts that it is loaded with antioxidants. 
  • Pumpkin Seeds:  Excellent sources of fiber and rich in vitamin A and potassium, are also packed with protein, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins E and B.
  • Pumpkin meat has also been used as a remedy for snakebites and a poultice treatment for burns.
Pumpkin Proverbs:
  • One cannot manage too many affairs, like pumpkins in water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other. Chinese Proverb
  • The pumpkin gives birth and the fence has the trouble.  Moroccan Proverb
  • The pumpkin vine never bears watermelons.  Creole Proverb
 Wacky Facts
  • In 2007 Boston, Massachusetts, shattered New Hampshire's previously held world record for Most Lit Pumpkins by lighting 30,128 pumpkins at one time.
  • Nassau, Delaware holds the national record for Pumpkin Chunkin distance by using an air cannon to propel a pumpkin over 3/4 of a mile
  • A number of movies have starred pumpkins, notably Cinderella's pumpkin chariot.
Guest article provided by DAWN BRYAN:
Dawn is the founder of Qualipedia ™ and author of the best-selling bookThe Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving. Dawn’s impressive career includes being selected as an advisor and spokesperson for many global brands including Gucci, American Express, Business Week Magazine, Citicorps/Diners Club, Swarovski Crystal, and others.  She has authored many columns and books on protocol, gift-giving and the quality of things for Business Week, Town & Country, Modern Bride, Vogue and Glamour among others.  Dawn has taught international protocol to globalizing businesses and industries, as well as to Chinese journalists and diplomats in Beijing and Shanghai.


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