Picking the best pumpkin of the patch isn't always as easy as it seems. With an endless sea of pumpkins to look over, it can be a daunting task. But there are plenty of tips to arm yourself with next time you head out to pick one up for either carving or cooking. Here are some things to always keep in mind if you want to pick the perfect pumpkin.
The perfect pumpkin should be firm all over. That means no soft spots whatsoever. A soft spot on a pumpkin could indicate that there's rot inside. You definitely don't want to deal with that when you cut it open later at home.
Pumpkins come in all different colors. The rule of thumb is that if you buy an orange pumpkin, it should be orange all over with no brown or green patches. No matter how small, a brown spot can spell trouble and could mean that bugs have gotten in.
You should also check for frost damage by inspecting the color surrounding the stem. If it's duller than the rest of the pumpkin, pick another one.
When thinking about the shape, it all depends on what you want your pumpkin for. If you're carving it, make sure the bottom is flat so it sits evenly on the ground. Plan on carving a spooky face on it? Go for one that is slightly flattened on one side (not a lot of ribs).
Size isn't as big of a factor as color and feel, but it's still something to keep in mind. Medium-sized pumpkins are typically the way to go if you plan on carving them. Smaller pumpkins pack more flavor for cooking and are sweeter. Keep in mind that jumbo-sized pumpkins are going to have the stringiest insides.
Cooking tip: Try the Sugar Pie variety that are between four and eight pounds.
Believe it or not, sound can play a factor in deciding. For carving, the less thick, the better. Knock on several pumpkins in the running, and the one that sounds more hollow will be best for carving. The opposite goes for cooking purposes.
The stem is an important part of picking the perfect pumpkin! Dehydrated pumpkins are not desirable. You want dark green or black stems only that are firm and don't break off. If the stem feels flimsy, you don't want that one.
Also, don't forget that there are so many ways to recycle your jack-o-lantern instead of simply pitching it.