How to Pick Pumpkins

Whether or not you're growing your own, visiting a local pumpkin patch or browsing at the store, there is a technique to finding just the right pumpkin. Carefully chosen pumpkins will last longer, look nicer, and taste better.


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    Choose a design to carve before you go shopping for pumpkins. Think about which shape would best suit your design--tall and narrow? Fat and round? If you're going to use stencils, look for a pumpkin with a shape similar to the pattern you're going to carve.
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    Check for a smooth, uniformly colored skin. The flesh should be firm, not elastic in any way. Inspect the entire pumpkin. Stay away from pumpkins with bruises, cuts, scratches or any signs of mold. If you'll be using stencils, steer clear of dents as well.
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    Keep an eye out for smaller, "sugar" pumpkins for eating. Not all pumpkins will taste good in a pie. Sugar pumpkins are 200-250 millimeters (8-10") in diameter and will have smoother, less stringy flesh than a decorative pumpkin.
  4. Image titled Pick Pumpkins Step 4
    Knock on the shell. Ripe pumpkins will make a "hollow" sound. If the pumpkin is on the vine, the vine should be dry and the stem should be hard and brown. The ripeness of the pumpkin might not matter as much if you're only interested in carving (in which case an unripened pumpkin might last longer).
  5. Image titled Pick Pumpkins Step 5
    Set the pumpkin up to make sure it sits level. You don't want to choose a pumpkin for carving only to find that it won't sit up straight for you. If the pumpkin grew on its side and has a flat spot there, you might be able to incorporate it into your design or turn that side against a wall so it isn't seen.
  6. Image titled Pick Pumpkins Step 6
    Leave as much of the stem on as possible. You can cut the vine on both sides of the stem and then later cut the stem carefully at home. This will help it keep longer. Obviously, this only applies if you're actually harvesting pumpkins.


  • It's always best to seek pumpkins straight from the vine, because you'll have a better idea of how fresh and ripe it is, and they'll have avoided the abuse of being transported.
  • Some types of pumpkin ripen faster than others. If you're dealing with an unusual pumpkin variety, research it and adapt these instructions accordingly.
  • Since a pumpkin is a member of the winter squash family, it'll last quite a while in storage. It's only when it's carved that it'll begin to deteriorate rapidly.
  • Always look for a strong stem. Even if it is a strong stem, you do not want to carry the pumpkin by the stem.


  • Don't let pumpkins be exposed to frost, or else they'll rot immediately after defrosting
  • Never store an uncut pumpkin on the grass,wet grass (even from morning dew) will rot it. If you do store it on the grass,make sure to turn it everyday to a new side of the pumpkin. Otherwise,you'll end up with a bad spot.
  • If it's a heavy pumpkin, always lift with your legs, not your back.

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