Fall trips to the pumpkin patch are some of my fondest memories! When the weather turns and you start to feel that familiar chill in the air, I thoroughly enjoy all things pumpkin: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice lattes, and even pumpkin seeds. This particular week feels especially fall-like, which inspired me to share more information about our beloved source of Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Here are some tips from the University of Arizona on preparing a pumpkin for carving. Work on a clean surface. Before cutting, wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with tap water to remove any surface dirt that could be transferred to the inside of the pumpkin during cutting.
The most popular use of pumpkins is for decoration as jack-o-lanterns. Look for a pumpkin with 1 to 2 inches of stem left. If the stem is cut down too low the pumpkin will decay quickly or may be decaying at the time of purchase. Avoid pumpkins with blemishes and soft spots. It should be heavy, shape is unimportant. A lopsided pumpkin is not necessarily a bad pumpkin.
You can purchase pumpkin carving toolkits, but chances are you have many of the tools already on hand. These include: a boning knife-good for cutting the top and larger pieces; a small paring knife or hobby knife for detail work; a mini hand held saw-good (this can be fashioned from an old coping saw blade with one end cut off and a duct tape handle); a poker tool-such as an ice pick, nail or awl; an ice cream scoop; some patterns download on computer or design your own; masking tape for attaching pattern to pumpkin; crayon or washable pen; and candles and holders. Some carvers use Dremel tools (high speed rotary cutters) for detailed work.
Traditional pumpkin carvers cut the top out (including the stem) by making an angled cut so the top piece won’t fall inside the pumpkin. You may choose to cut into the top or the bottom, or for a different look, turn the pumpkin on its side. For bottom cutting, cut a small hole in the bottom, discard the cut portion, and when finished, just set your pumpkin right over the candle. Once you have cut into your pumpkin, remove the insides and scrape away at the pumpkin until the walls are no more than one-inch thick. Some designs may require scraping away even more.
Simple designs can be done freehand. Draw your design by using a crayon or washable pen. Fancier designs usually are created from a pattern. The pattern should be towards the top of the pumpkin, not in the center. The light source should be below the pattern to allow the light to project upward. Attach your pattern with masking tape. Use a nail, ice pick, or other sharp pointed object to transfer the pattern onto the face of the pumpkin. Press the tip through the design lines on the paper about 1/8 inch apart. The tip should be pushed in far enough to go through the paper and the outer skin of the pumpkin. It is not necessary at this time to go all the way through the pumpkin. These small holes will serve as a guide for sawing.
Remove the pattern and inspect the pumpkin to make sure that all lines have been transferred clearly. You can rub some flour or baking soda over the lines to help them stand out. Remember, don’t use the saw like a knife. Saw slowly and gently. Start at the center of the design and work your way outward. Each time you remove a piece of the design the pumpkin gets weaker. Leave plenty of connective tissue. Accidents can happen to anyone, so if something does fall off, just put a couple of toothpicks into the area that broke off, then carefully push it back into place.
You’ll want to keep your Jack-O-Lantern fresh as long as possible. When pumpkins shrivel up, it’s because they have lost moisture. You can usually restore them to their original condition by soaking them in water overnight. Another technique is to coat all cut surfaces with petroleum jelly immediately after carving, including the entire inside of the pumpkin. Petroleum jelly acts as a barrier to seal in the internal moisture to help slow down the dehydration process. After Halloween, put your carved pumpkin in the compost.
The final step is to add a candle. Candles placed in glass candleholders are safer and last longer. Small glass jelly jars make excellent candleholders. Plain white candles give off the most light. If the lid of your pumpkin blackens, cut a small chimney hole in the top, so heat and smoke can escape.
Roasting Pumpkin Seeds
Source: Food Network
- Seed the pumpkin: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Using a spoon, scrape the pulp and seeds out of your pumpkin into a bowl.
- Clean the seeds: Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp, rinse the seeds in a colander under cold water, then shake dry. Don’t blot with paper towels; the seeds will stick.
- Dry them: Spread the seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet and roast 30 minutes to dry them out.
- Add spices: Toss the seeds with olive oil, salt and your choice of spices (see below). Return to the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 20 more minutes.
Fall 2017 Paper Clover Fundraiser, October 4-15, 2017
Two times a year, National 4-H Council partners with the nation’s leading rural lifestyle retailer, Tractor Supply Company (TSC), to host a national Paper Clover Promotion!
The Paper Clover Promotion is a consumer-driven fundraising promotion where customers at your local Tractor Supply can support 4-H by purchasing a paper clover for $1 at the checkout. The Fall Paper Clover Promotion will be held from Wednesday, October 4, through Sunday, October 15, 2017. 4-H Clubs are encouraged to participate in store during the event to help increase fundraising dollars and be entered into the Paper Clover Participation Sweepstakes.
During the semi-annual event, we invite friends and family to support 4-H by donating $1 at checkout in stores to contribute to scholarships that send kids in your state to 4-H camp and other leadership experiences.
This fall, 90% of the funds raised in our state will be given back to the Nebraska 4-H Foundation. The funds given to the Nebraska 4-H Foundation will be used for scholarships to support 4-H youth from all areas of the state who will be attending camp or other leadership activities. During the spring Paper Clover promotion, Nebraska raised $3,272 for 4-H camp and leadership experiences.
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