A cut above: How to pick and carve the perfect pumpkin

Published: Monday, Oct. 20 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Bullocks pick out pumpkins at Mabey's patch in South Jordan this past week. From left are Katie Bullock, holding Davis, and Bailey, Tyson and Ryan Bullock.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Three-year-old Nephi Wolf Jr. is excited to carve pumpkins this Halloween.

Just last week, he and his family searched through Mabey's Pumpkin Patch in South Jordan to find the perfect orange squash to carve. The weather was crisp, but a handful of other families also wandered through the patch in search of pumpkins.

"I'm making a jack-o'-lantern," young Nephi said, after some prompting from his parents, Carina and Nephi Wolf, about what he was going to carve. His 6-year-old sister, Caroline, said she plans to carve her pumpkin like a princess.

The family doesn't use any fancy technique for carving. Instead, Mom and Dad rely on their kids to sketch designs onto their pumpkins and then they, the parents, do the carving.

"We make some interesting pumpkins," the elder Nephi Wolf said.

But talk to any expert, and that's how they say pumpkin carving should be. It's not about perfection but having fun, said Kristen Bogue, a master pumpkin carver who runs a pumpkin carving Web site with her husband, Ed Bogue.

"Our theory is that you are the artist when you are carving your pumpkin," said Ed Bogue, who lives in Brigham City. "As long as the kids are having fun and everyone is having fun, that's what pumpkin carving is all about."

Still, there are a few tips and tricks for people who want to carve a fantastic looking pumpkin. It begins with picking the right pumpkin and ends with knowing the best ways to preserve your pumpkin.

Step 1: Finding the right pumpkin

For Blake Anderson of Kearns, the key to finding the right pumpkin is to start looking once they appear at grocery stores and other shops. He's been carving for 25 years. He always looks for pumpkins with a smooth face that are large enough for the patterns he wants to use.

It's easier to carve if there are no grooves and scars on the face of your pumpkin, according to Anderson, who takes Halloween off from work each year to carve.

Likewise, the Bogues agree that the smoother the face of a pumpkin, the better. It makes it easier to stick a pattern on. Other tips include finding a firm pumpkin with no soft spots or cuts, so that it will last longer.

At Mabey's Pumpkin Patch, there is no specific pattern for how people select their pumpkins, according to Sarah Mabey, the daughter of owner Steve Mabey. People just rely on personal preference, although sometimes parents make a rule that their children can only pick a pumpkin that's as large as they can carry by themselves, she said.

"The bigger it is, the easier the pumpkin is to carve and clean out, but when it comes to picking, everyone is different," Mabey said. "Everyone likes different types."

Kaden Dupaix, 7, said he selected his pumpkin at Mabey's patch because it was "nice and round." Richard Carman, who brought his kids to the patch, said he likes to find odd-shaped pumpkins and carve a face to match.

Step 2: Pattern selection

Choosing a pattern is fairly simple, according to Anderson and the Bogues. You go with what you like and what you realistically think you have the skill to do.

During a recent pumpkin-carving demonstration at the Hunter Library in West Valley City, 5-year-old Travis Putnam carved a pumpkin with the face of Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean." It had a lot of little details that required his father's help, but Putnam said he really liked his pumpkin.

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