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How to Keep Carved Pumpkins Fresh

Halloween only comes once a year, but the excitement and anticipation that precedes it (known as “Halloween Season”) lasts months—from the start of September when pumpkin spiced everything begins hitting the shelves to Halloween’s Eve (and, for those of us who get serious post-Halloween depression, weeks after that). When Halloween anticipation strikes, quintessential Halloween activities like pumpkin carving just can’t wait. Last year, my family carved their pumpkins on the first week of October. In Southwest Virginia, that means those pumpkins had three weeks of sitting in eighty degree heat before the fated holiday arrived. At the time, we didn’t know of any surefire ways to preserve carved pumpkins, so, by the end of October, our works of art were basically mush. Since then, I’ve looked up a few tricks to ensure that, this year, our pumpkins still look fabulous in time for Halloween. Though, I have to admit, all those mounds of slimy pumpkin goop certainly scared the neighborhood kids.

Carved Pumpkin

Photo by Brian Turner

Keeping Pumpkins Fresh

When left to the elements, pumpkins deteriorate quickly. The trick, then, is finding a way to keep the elements out. Here’s some ideas:

Just Add Bleach

Bleach kills the microorganisms that cause pumpkins to rot. To bleach a pumpkin after carving, wash the inside out thoroughly. Then, stir three teaspoons of bleach into a bucket filled with three gallons of water. After the bleach has been mixed into the water, put on a pair of gloves and dunk the pumpkin into the bucket for two minutes. Let air dry. Bleaching can keep a pumpkin fresh for up to ten days!

Cover with WD-40

Though WD-40 is not typically used to preserve fruits, its chemical makeup can help keep pumpkins moist and sealed off from the elements. Simply coat the outside and inside of your pumpkin with a hardy layer of WD-40, then let dry. The oil will also give your pumpkin a glossy sheen. Since WD-40 is flammable, refrain from putting a candle in the pumpkin for at least one day after application.

Lather with Petroleum Jelly

Again, lubricants and fruit typically don’t mix. However, the slickness of the gel seals in moisture and keeps pumpkins from drying out. Use your hands (preferably gloved) to apply a layer of petroleum jelly to the inside of the pumpkin and the cut-out areas. Refrain from applying to the outside of the pumpkin, or else it might become too slick to pick up.

Don’t want to deal with the goopiness of petroleum jelly? You can also use vegetable oil to the same effect.

Apply Floor Wax (For Uncarved Pumpkins Only)

Gutting a pumpkin is a dirty job. Many families choose instead to leave pumpkins uncarved, displaying them as-is on their porch steps. In this case, an acrylic-liquid based floor cleaner is a perfect perseverant. Simply apply the cleaner to a paper towel and then brush the towel over the pumpkin, coating the skin lightly. Floor cleaner will give your uncarved pumpkins a nice shine as well. But, be warned, you should never turn a floor cleaner-treated pumpkin into pumpkin pie. Many of the chemicals in floor cleaners are toxic if ingested.


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