Jeff Ross, Garden Manager at the famous Blackberry Farm, says the best pumpkins to carve aren’t necessarily the ones you want to eat.
Ross advises to choose a pumpkin that’s firm, not tough. The name of the pumpkin variety can be a good indicator of its use, as many of them have “jack” or “Halloween” in the titles.
Once carved, however, jack-o’-lantern pumpkins won’t last long. To extend their life, keep the pumpkins out of direct sunlight, and consider using electric lights instead of candles. If you do use candles, light them only for a little while each night.
If you do want to decorate a cooking pumpkin, you can do so without carving all the way through. Ross suggests carving just into the skin or shaving off the tough outer layer, creating elaborate designs. Be creative — there are no rules!
“Hundreds of years ago in Scotland, pumpkins weren’t always available, so the first jack-o’-lanterns were carved out of rutabagas and turnips,” says Ross.
“If you’re a purist, find a nice fat round one and carve a toothy grin, but if you’re more artistic, find one with an unusual shape and work your own design,” he suggests. “Make it have a shrug or wink or something like that.”