How To Pick The Best Pumpkin

Recently harvested orange pumpkins in a random pile
Whether you want to carve a jack-o’-lantern or bake the perfect pie, consider these tips to pick the right pumpkin this fall.

Pick with Purpose

First, it would help to have your goal in mind before you ever head out to a grocery store or pumpkin patch. If you want to carve a gourd for Halloween, then you’ll need a pumpkin with a smooth, even surface to make the task easier. Many farms grow varieties specifically for making jack-o’-lanterns, complete with big, plump shapes and less pulp on the inside for a more hollow lantern. If you’re planning for pie, go with a shorter, denser pie pumpkin, sometimes known as a “sugar pumpkin” or “winter squash.” These pumpkins will have a much more suitable pulp for making your desserts, but you can save the seeds of either variety for a tasty roasted treat.

Perfect Your Picking

With your basic criteria in mind, you can proceed to pick your pumpkin, and there are a few steps you can take to identify a winner. First, eyeball the selection and rule out any that have cracks or blemishes that would interfere with your carving or baking. You can spot rot by checking for soft or sunken spots. The rind should be firm all the way around, and it shouldn’t scratch easily if you graze it with your fingernail. The stem should also be firm, and the greener, the better. If the stem’s dry, that could be a sign that the pumpkin has been off the vine for quite some time now, and wouldn’t last long once you bring it home. Remember that even a fresh stem is brittle, so carry your pumpkin in your arms and not by the stem.

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