Pumpkin season is well on its way, and if you’re any sort of Halloween lover, or general autumn enthusiast, you’re already checking pumpkin patches for growth. This is great, because you get to witness the little guys turning from tiny flowers at the base of the plant into big, orange squashes that are just waiting to get a scary face on them.
One thing you’ll notice, as you wander through the pumpkin patches as the season comes closer, is that nearly all of them are orange, or are turning orange. Some end up white, some a light green. All of them are perfectly beautiful, plump pumpkins and should be loved equally. But why are most of the orange ?
We’re already getting excited for Halloween here, so today’s post is dedicated to some of the most common pumpkin questions out there. Let’s begin.
Why are pumpkins orange ?
Pumpkins are orange because they contain carotenoid pigments, specifically alpha and beta carotene. You can also find these pigments in carrots, and they’re the reason behind the deep, golden orange.
Not all pumpkins end up orange, since there are various types of pumpkin. Some contain very, very small amounts of carotenoid pigments, leading to a creamy white look. Those are the Blanco and Casper variety, and they grow just as big as the regular orange ones.
Other pumpkins have absolutely zero carotenoid pigments so their final color is a very light green that can appear bluish, like the Queensland blue, or the Jarrahdale.
Then there are pumpkins that resemble gourds and squashes, so they are stripey or spotted with green, or have a darker green patch that fades into the orange. The green comes from the chlorophyll pigment, which gives a deep green color. Some pumpkins have mixed percentages of carotenoids and chlorophyll, and you get some really beautiful colors.
One thing is always the same though: all pumpkins start or green, and they change color as they ripe under the later summer sun. Some stop at white, some stay green, some are a creamy yellowish green, and some go all the way to dark, deep orange.
Read also: Does Coconut Flour Rise ?
Why are pumpkins hollow inside ?
Pumpkins are hollow inside because the fruit has been selectively bred to grow as large as possible, and growing hollow is one of the side-effects of this. There’s only so much flesh (thickness) a pumpkin can produce, and the larger the pumpkin, the more air there is inside.
The air itself is actually a bit different than outside air. It’s more carbon dioxide than oxygen, and it doesn’t seem to serve a specific purpose.
There are theories as to why pumpkins have a hollow inside, though none of them have been proven or debunked, so it’s still anyone’s guess.
Why do pumpkins grow so big ?
Pumpkin have been bred to grow as large as possible, with the main reason being simply having more fruit. The pumpkin plant won’t necessarily offer more flowers, but the fruit may be influenced to grow larger. Selective breeding has led to progressively larger pumpkins, until we got the ones we have today.
Today’s pumpkin patch is very different from the original, growing some basketball-sized gourds each year. Pumpkins have been used primarily for jack-o-lanterns, and the bigger the pumpkin the more elaborate designs or the scarier the faces.
Pumpkins get progressively larger the more they sit on the vine and have proper nutrition, water, and climate. Some pumpkin varieties grow especially large, such as the Big Moose, Big Max, Full Moon (white), Jumpin Jack (tall orange), and Mammoth Gold.
The trouble with very large pumpkins is that they often don’t retain their round shape, and end up buckling under their own weight. This is why many large pumpkins end up a big flattened, and they may even grow in odd shapes.
If you’re carving a very large pumpkin, you may have to prop the inside a little, or even work with the odd shape.
Why do pumpkins have warts ?
Some pumpkins have warts that are actually intentional, and those are the Knucklehead pumpkin variety. These have been selectively bred to introduce as many warts as possible to each pumpkin on the patch.
A bump here and there is normal on a pumpkin, it can happen to any of them. Knucklehead pumpkin have taken those bumps and warts to the extreme, sometimes even covering the entire pumpkin. Many people like this look, especially if they’re aiming for particularly weird or ghoulish pumpkin carvings.
This doesn’t mean you can only use the bumpy pumpkin for decoration. Knuckleheads can also be cooked, and they have a mild flavor.
Please not that not all bumpy, warty pumpkins are Knuckleheads. If you know you’re raising a totally different kind of pumpkin, and it comes out bumpy instead of smooth, it may have a disease or condition. The most common are the Mosaic virus, cucumber beetles, and edemas. All of these are manageable.
Tips on carving your perfect pumpkin
Pumpkin carving can be a really fun experience and there’s really no need for anxiety. As long as you’ve got a reasonably sharp carving utensil and an open mind, you can create anything you like. Even the smallest, ugliest pumpkin can turn into something fun and quirky.
If you’ve never carved a pumpkin before, we’ll break it down for you. You need a pumpkin, a sharp knife, a big spoon to scoop everything out, rubber gloves, and a trashcan.
Carve a hole into any side of the pumpkin, and then scoop out all the slimy, sticky, runny seeds and entrails. Your hands will slip so only do this with a spoon, and make sure you get as much as you can. The more you leave inside, the more it will smell. A pumpkin carving kit should have all the tools you need.
Once your pumpkin is cleaned out, decide on what to carve and go for it. If it’s your very first pumpkin, go slowly and don’t expect it to come out perfect. Go for a simple design first, just so you get a feel for how you should handle the pumpkin.
Make sure your hands, gloves included, are clean before handling the knife or carving tool. It can get slippery.
Wipe your pumpkin clean
When bringing your pumpkin home, you’ll want to keep it in a cold, dry place. And once it’s ready to be carved, you’ll want to clean it. The best way to do this is to set it under running water, and wipe it clean with your hands, You can apply a tiny bit of dish soap if you want to remove some sticky parts. After all, you’re displaying your pumpkin so it needs to look great.
Wipe the pumpkin dry once you’re done, and set it aside to be carved.
Carve a smooth surface for the candles
When you’ve scooped out all the innards, make sure you leave a smooth surface for the candles. After all, that’s an open flame and you don’t want that running wild. A smooth, flat surface will keep the candles level.
A better option, if you’re really good at carving, is to carve a half-inch hole into the bottom of the pumpkin to set your candle in. This way it really won’t budge.
Smooth pumpkins are easier to carve
The smoother the pumpkin, the easier it is to carve. Your knife or carving tool won’t go into odd angles, and the design will show up nicely. of course, the ribbed pumpkins can also be useful but you may have to change your design. You can work with the ribs, and use the crannies between them as sharp teeth or something similar.
Plan out your design, map it with a pencil
All designs can be mapped out beforehand, so you at least know what you’re carving, Sure, you can simply go with the flow and see where the pumpkin takes you, but you can get a poorly finished piece like that.
You can trace your design on the pumpkin with a pencil, a pen, or even with the tip of the knife or carving tool. Even if it’s a really simple design, like a scary face, it’ll still be easier.
Give it time, enjoy the process
If you only remember one thing, remember to give the carving some time and enjoy the process. This doesn’t mean you should start carving now and finish in 2 days. But it means you don’t have to rush, take your time doing this and have fun while doing it.
It can be a really nice group experience, with siblings or friends or family, and you can even create a gang or pumpkins, each with their own story !
Hopefully you’ll have a great Halloween, and be very pleased with your spooky pumpkin.