How to pick the perfect pumpkin

There are certain things pickers should look for when selecting the perfect pumpkin.

Halloween is about 20 days away and pumpkins are everywhere, including grocery stores and on front porches.

Jack-o-lantern carvers should pick larger pumpkins while the smaller ones are for cooking, Parker County Extension Agent Kathy Smith said.

The smaller ones, sometimes called sweet or pumpkin pie pumpkins, can be found in a grocery store’s fresh vegetable section, Smith said. People can use pumpkins for pie, cakes, cookies, soups and stews.

“One pound of raw pumpkin will make about one cup of puree,” Smith said.

To cook a pumpkin, people should cut the pumpkin into wedges with a meat cleaver, or in some cases a chainsaw, before baking, steaming or boiling, Weatherford Farmers Market employee Natalie Mynar said.

Pumpkins should be cooked with the skin intact and covered in oil or butter to keep it from drying out while baking. Mynar suggests a low temperature for cooking pumpkins, which should be removed from cooking before they get too mushy.

Though the larger carving pumpkins can be eaten, they are not as sweet and are more watery, Smith said. Jack-o-lanterns last up to a week, and some last longer.

Pumpkins with thinner skin are best for children to carve, Mynar said.

Smith suggested that people select pumpkins with one to two inch stems because shorter stems decay quicker. Shape is not important, but pumpkins with blemishes or soft spots should be avoided, she said.

Pumpkin pickers should avoid pumpkins that are too mature, evident by a faded color, Mynar said. These pumpkins tend to be stringy and flavorless.

Pumpkins with transparent spots or ones that are seeping at the bottom or stem are rotting, Mynar said.

When selecting pumpkins, bigger is not always better, Mynar said.

“Just because it’s a big one doesn’t mean it’s going to taste better,” Mynar said. “If you’re going to eat it, always get the small to medium size.”