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Picking pumpkins

October 13, 1998

Picking PumpkinsBy MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




As Halloween approaches, pumpkins on the vine are no longer just warm reminders that fall has arrived. They are palettes, ready to come to life with laughing or haunting faces, either by knife or paintbrush.

Some are small and smooth, others are hefty and full of ridges. Many are bright orange, but some, called Luminas, are white with orange interiors. All have jack-o'-lantern potential.

Jeri Huffer, who runs Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch near Middletown, Md., with her husband, Martin, recommends picking a pumpkin off the vine because it is being nourished right up to the minute the owner chooses it.

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The fruits that are deep orange with ridges hold up best, Huffer says, while softer pumpkins allow for more intricate carving, but don't last as long.

If the interior is scooped to within 1/2 or 1/4 inch of the pumpkin's wall, carvers can put a lot of detail in their jack-o'-lanterns, Huffer says.

"It depends on how much scraping you want to do," she says.

"You want to have a good face on it," says Lee Greiner, owner of Ridgefield Farm and Orchard in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Look for ones that don't have any defects, such as cuts or insect holes.

Lumina pumpkins, which range in weight from 5 to 8 pounds, are smooth, round and ripe for carving, Greiner says. Once cut, their orange interiors create colorfully framed eyes to greet trick-or-treaters.

Smaller pumpkins, which Greiner calls the "Spooky" variety, are better suited for painting. Their size makes carving difficult, but their smooth surface provides a prime canvas.

Huffer recommends using acrylic paints, the consistency of which are thick enough that only one coat is needed. She recommends applying polyurethane after the paint dries to seal the handiwork.




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