Picking the perfect pumpkin

There is something magical about the autumn season –  the leaves changing into brilliant colors and a cool breeze floating in the air. The holiday season really begins to take off as preparations for Halloween begin. What began as an Irish custom of carving gourds and turnips became a well loved tradition of pumpkin carving for many throughout America.

The carved pumpkin, or Jack ‘O’ Lantern, was originally lit with a lump of coal and placed in windowsills to ward off unpleasant spirits. This was followed by the use of candles and today some even use battery powered lights. Though the Jack ‘O’ Lantern has changed through the years, one thing has remained constant: the amusement and regalement that comes from choosing and carving your very own pumpkin.

There are many places to find the perfect pumpkin for carving; however, the experience of carving the pumpkin is enhanced if it begins in the right place. It may be different for each individual person; perhaps quickly browsing through the grocery store selection is adequate for some. It might also be the “Disneyland” of pumpkin patches: the one that is perfectly groomed and surrounded by pristine landscaping and paved paths. Don’t, however, dismiss the engaging atmosphere offered by a real farm, with real patches, and yes, weeds and dirt. There is something to be said for riding an old rickety wagon drawn by an old John Deer tractor to a large pumpkin patch and spending some time wandering through the dirt and finding that flawless pumpkin.

There are many local farms throughout Utah Valley that offer this kind of ambiance, allowing each person to be personally involved in the selection of that ideal pumpkin. A fun farm in Utah Valley is Southridge Farms in Santaquin. Famous for its “Big Red Barn” and sour cherries, this little gem has much more to offer. It is a real working farm and though they don’t make a lot of money from it, they continue to do wagon rides to their expansive patches every year because they enjoy providing the opportunity for families and friends to experience a real farm together.

After arriving at the optimal location, the question is how to recognize the “right” pumpkin. It’s good to choose one with a stem, as it will generally last longer. A lighter tinted orange pumpkin will be easier to carve than a darker one; the skin gets tougher as the color gets darker. It’s also good to try to pick one without holes or soft spots. But from there, the specifics are a matter of personal preference. Whether it’s an orange, yellow, green or white pumpkin, chances are the perfect one is out there. Perhaps a tall pumpkin will work best, or maybe it’s a fat short one that will display the spooky face best. Whichever size, shape, or color is fitting, be sure to take the time to soak in the mood while choosing the one that will display original personality and unique flare this Halloween season.

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