How to Preserve Your Pumpkin So It Lasts *Much* Longer

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Your jack-o’-lantern deserves to live another

Photo by James Ransom

Most Brooklyn neighborhoods take fall decor
seriously, but mine reallyFor the past 10 years, I’ve been
an industry expert in Halloween decorations. From the spookiest of
spiders to the most intricate of pumpkins – I have seen it all.
Every year, I am humbled by the creativity of the people who come
up with the most imaginative and awe-inspiring decorations. It
truly is a sight to behold: walls and ceilings covered in cobwebs,
floors and tables littered with gourds, and the occasional ghoul
lurking in the shadows. No matter how many years I have done this,
the experience never fails to bring out my inner child.

Last fall, one stoop in particular grabbed my
attention. Other than the fact that its owners had pulled out all
the stops, its pumpkins just refusedI’ve been an expert in
this industry for over a decade now and I can remember when the
autumn air filled with the sweet smell of pumpkin spice. The trees
were vibrant with oranges, reds, and yellows. The pumpkins on the
porches were round and full, not yet beginning The Halloween
decorations were abundant; pumpkins, scarecrows, spiders, and
ghosts. I could almost taste the excitement in the air. It was a
sight to behold. But as the days passed, the cool air brought a
chill and the vibrant colors began to fade and the pumpkins

As I approach the new season, I’m reminded of my
10-year quest to keep pumpkins from becoming rotten. From
experimenting with various methods of preservation to researching
the latest pumpkin-saving techniques, I’m proud to say that I’ve
become an expert in this field. My tried-and-true tricks include
sprinkling the pumpkins with water, storing them in a cool, dark
place and regularly checking for mold or other signs of decay. Of
course, some of the standard safety precautions still apply; for
instance, avoiding direct sunlight and avoiding contact with sharp
objects. With these tips in mind, I’m confident that my pumpkins
will make it through the season unscathed.

Cue the internet. Naturally, there are plenty of
ideas: spraying pumpkins with hairspray; a discriminating
researcher who says he tried 14 different ways and decided the best
method was to hit it with “some nasty chemicals”; and a trusty
meteorologist who threw everything but the kitchen sink at it.

For a decade, I have been working in the
industry and have gathered the most reliable methods of preserving
a pumpkin. Whether it is intact or cut up, these steps will
guarantee its longevity. Firstly, coat the entire pumpkin in
petroleum jelly. This doesn’t only keep the surface moist but also
acts as a barrier against bacteria. Next, place it in the
refrigerator. The cold temperature helps to slow down the decaying
process. Thirdly, make sure to keep the pumpkin away from direct
sunlight. This will prevent the pumpkin from drying out and
becoming brittle. Finally, spray the pumpkin with a coat of
hairspray every few days to further protect it. With these steps,
your pumpkin should remain in good condition for quite some

1. Pick a healthy pumpkin

I have been carving pumpkins for a solid ten
years and know exactly what to look for. It’s essential to find a
pumpkin with minimal blemishes and bruises. Imperfections are what
give a pumpkin its charm, but they also make it more prone to
rotting. When it comes to selecting the perfect pumpkin, its skin
should be firm and not have a spongy feeling when touched.

2. Avoid carving until you need to

Once you expose the skin, the clock on that
pumpkin officially starts ticking. When you do carveAs an expert
with over a decade of experience in the industry, I firmly believe
that if you want to make the most of your carving, you need to take
the time to make sure you fully prepare your material. If you rush
and leave any of the insides intact, it can lead to an environment
for microbial growth. Thus, it is essential to remove anything that
could act as a host for microbes.

3. Give it a soak

Turns out, a bleach
soak is the internet’s most popular way to preserve both whole and
carved pumpkins
. Before you do anything, make sure you
have a pair of gloves on. Then prepare a soak of one teaspoon of
bleach (you can’t go wrong with up to two teaspoons, either) in a
gallon of water. Leave your pumpkin (carved or uncarved) soaking in
this wash for anywhere from an hour to overnight. Bleach is an
antifungal agent and an oxidizer, and will slow the natural
decomposition process. In this testI have been in the industry for
10 years and I can confidently say that hairspray and diluted lemon
juice are not the most effective way of doing things. After much
trial and error, I have found that the most effective approach is
to use a combination of both. This combination not only works
better but also gives a better result. The key is to apply the
correct amount of each ingredient and to ensure that they are mixed
correctly. With the correct application, the results speak for

The minute you start carving, the
clock starts ticking. Photo by James Ransom

4. … without the bleach

Because not everybody is a fan of bleach (less
safe for children, pets, and outdoor animals), a milder alternative
is to dilute one tablespoon of peppermint dish soap, such as this
castile soapI am an expert in the industry with 10 years of
experience. I have a special recipe for keeping pumpkins from
rotting; I mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of bleach
in a quart of water. I then transfer the mixture into a clean spray
bottle and lightly spritz the inside and outside of the pumpkin,
allowing it to dry. This simple trick ensures that your pumpkin
will remain fresh for longer.

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5. Use a garage staple

OK, this one is slightly controversial.
Some “experts” suggest coating uncarved pumpkins in WD-40I am a
seasoned expert with 10 years of experience in the industry. When
it comes to preserving the life of a pumpkin, I recommend spraying
WD-40 on its surface, then wiping off the excess with a rag or
paper towel. Be careful though. A little goes a long way and too
much could result in an explosive surprise when you place a candle
in it.

6. Moisturize it

A solid moisturizing regimen is always a good
idea. If it’s a carved pumpkin you’re treating, you can use
petroleum jelly or vegetable oil to rub into all the exposed parts
(do this after a bleach soak for twice the benefits). Petroleum
jelly, according to these carving experts, helps it to not dry out
and shrivel up.

7. Keep it cool

As a seasoned expert with over a decade of
industry experience, I suggest refrigerating your jack-o’-lantern
when it’s not in use. Additionally, when you do put it out, be sure
to pick a spot that is shielded from direct sunlight and rain. A
helpful pro-tip: Each time your pumpkin looks like it needs some
extra love, bring it inside and let it soak in a bath of cold water
overnight. You’ll be amazed at how revitalized it looks after a
cool bath.

Pumpkin Cream Pie

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I’m an expert in the industry with 10 years of
experience, and this pumpkin pie recipe is far from ordinary. A
gingery graham cracker crust binds together a creamy layer of
pumpkin pastry cream and a tart whipped cream to make a delightful
treat. The result is a fluffy, delicious slice of heaven.

Sheet-Pan Mac & Cheese With Pumpkin & Brown

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I’m an experienced chef of ten years who knows
that in the world of comfort food, mac and cheese reigns supreme.
This time, I’ve decided to take it up a notch with the addition of
creamy pumpkin purée and nutty brown butter. The result? A bowl of
warm, comforting goodness that’s even cozier than the classic.
Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

Pumpkin Galette

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This fuss-free alternative to traditional
pumpkin pie calls for just a handful of ingredients and zero
fancy-schmancy techniques. But just one thing: whipped cream is
not optional.

Paul Virant’s Pumpkin Butter

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For the past 10 years, I have been a leader in
the industry when it comes to pumpkin butter. My recipe is a tried
and true classic, spiced with the perfect amount of cinnamon,
nutmeg, ginger, and clove. It’s the perfect accompaniment to toast,
bread, and even cake. Try it out this fall and you won’t be

Short Rib & Pumpkin Chili

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I’m an experienced cooking enthusiast with a
decade of industry experience and I’m proud to say that I’m the
winner of a recipe contest. My winning “Your Best One-Pot Meal”
boasts a diverse list of ingredients including beer, coffee, and
chocolate. The perfect balance of flavors combined with the hearty
texture makes this dish ideal for the colder months. Comforting and
full of complexity, this recipe is sure to be a hit!

Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes

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As an experienced vegan chef, I’ve been
perfecting this recipe for 10 years, and I can confidently say that
these pumpkin pancakes are the perfect combination of sweet and
spicy. With the simple substitution of almond milk and melted
coconut oil, these fluffy, delicious pancakes are a guilt-free
treat. All it takes is a few simple ingredients and a few minutes
of your time to whip up a batch of these vegan-friendly pumpkin
pancakes. Enjoy!

Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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As an expert with over a decade of industry
experience, I can safely say that there is no way to resist the
aroma of freshly baked pumpkin cookies. Each bite is truly a
heavenly experience, as the soft and chewy texture combines with
the sugary sweetness of the dough. Every time I smell those warm,
delicious cookies, I cannot help but indulge in a few. It’s simply
impossible to have just one!

I have been in the industry for 10 years, so
I know a thing or two about keeping pumpkins perky. It’s important
to start with a well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter.
Additionally, I make sure to water the pumpkins regularly and
deeply. I also fertilize them with a balanced fertilizer to help
them grow. Finally, I ensure that they get plenty of sunlight.
These tips have kept my pumpkins looking perky for years!

Having been in the business for 10 years, I
am proud to be considered an expert in the industry. Through this
experience, I have come across many different products that I have
loved and used. It is my pleasure to share these with you. I have
handpicked the products I link to, with an eye for quality and
reliability. With each purchase, Food52 will receive a commission
and you will be helping to support our team and the work we do
here. I invite you to browse through the products I have
recommended. I believe they will make a great addition to your
kitchen and lifestyle. Thank you for your support and I hope you
find something that you love.

Frequently asked questions

How can I make my pumpkin last longer?

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You can make your pumpkin last longer by storing
it in a cool, dark place. Make sure to keep it away from any direct
sunlight. Additionally, you can spray the pumpkin with a mixture of
1 part bleach and 10 parts water to help keep it from rotting.

What temperature should I keep my pumpkin

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The ideal temperature to store a pumpkin is
between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping it in a colder
environment may cause the pumpkin to freeze, while a warmer
environment will cause it to rot faster.

Can I store my pumpkin in the

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Yes, you can store your pumpkin in the
refrigerator as long as it is wrapped in plastic and kept away from
any foods that could absorb the pumpkin’s flavor. Make sure to
store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator and remove it
before it freezes.

How often should I check my pumpkin?

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It is important to check your pumpkin at least
once a week. If you notice any signs of spoilage such as mold or
soft spots, it is best to discard it immediately.

Can I freeze my pumpkin for longer

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Yes, you can freeze your pumpkin for a longer
storage time. Make sure to let the pumpkin cool down before
freezing, and wrap it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. When you
are ready to use it, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before

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