Pumpkin Hacks: How to handle these seasonal beasts

It’s Halloween, so you should be thinking of carving a pumpkin! Here are some helpful tips for the process.

Pumpkin carving may seem like a bit of an ordeal but as the weather gets colder, the nights draw in, and a decidedly spooky atmosphere fills the air, it may just be the activity you need to get in the mood for Halloween. Here are some tips for making the experience as stress-free as possible:

  • Choose a good pumpkin

Make the entire process of carving easier by selecting a good pumpkin. Whether you’re picking one up from Tesco or going to a pumpkin farm , choose one that isn’t damaged or too old. A pumpkin with a flatter base is also ideal, so that it will stay upright by itself. And remember you don’t have to use a pumpkin: from watermelons to squashes to turnips, the possibilities are endless.

  • Gather some tools

A serrated knife is best for cutting into a pumpkin, and use a wide, flat, metal spoon to scoop out the pulp on the inside. A dessert spoon or an ice-cream scoop are ideal. If you have one, a drill and set of drill bits in various sizes is great for smaller circular details like eyes. Another useful item to have is a carving kit. You can get a cheap one of these online or in a high street store for a few pounds, and the typical kit will come with smaller knives for more detailed carving, and some even come with an LED tea light or design stencils.

  • Plan your design

Unless you’re the Van Gogh of pumpkin carving, it’s safe to say that you’re not going to be able to go in blind and not make any mistakes. Whether it’s a traditional smiling face or a more complicated image or greeting, quickly sketch out your design before you begin. Using dry-erase pen is your best bet so you can wash it off easily. Pop open a window or head outside to avoid a pumpkin smelling kitchen. Then, lay out some newspaper for an easy clean up. Keep a bin or a bag nearby for the stuff you want to throw away, and you’re set to go.

  • Don’t get discouraged

While carving, scoop out the pumpkin properly to ensure your design looks good when you put a tea light inside. If you’re worried about the pumpkin burning, drill a small chimney into the lid. A smaller pumpkin will be a quicker and cheaper option, but it can be a fiddly task compared to the standard size ones. I’d suggest going large, but if you don’t, take your time to ensure that
a) your design comes out looking amazing,
b) you don’t get injured.
It’s all too easy to accidentally cut yourself while carving.

  • What to do next?

A great idea to really embrace the season is to sprinkle some cinnamon onto the lid or insides of the pumpkin in order to achieve that pumpkin-spice latte scent. If that’s not your thing, just do it anyway because it’ll still smell better than burnt pumpkin. Those innards you removed? They have many uses besides sitting in your bin. Perhaps you could use them as part of your pumpkin design to add to the spectacle. Otherwise, keep the seeds as a quick and healthy snack. You can eat pumpkin seeds raw, but baking them is pretty easy. Just rinse them to ensure they’re clean, pop them on a baking tray with whatever seasoning you prefer, add some olive oil, and bake until they’re golden-brown. There are tonnes of more detailed recipes online that you can follow if you’re interested.

If you’re feeling really daring, make some pumpkin-themed dishes. From pumpkin pie to pumpkin soup, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on a cold Autumn day.

Esme Johnson 

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