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How to carve a pumpkin

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As the end of October approaches, vast orange pumpkins start to appear in the shops.  Excited children nag wary parents to pop one in the trolley and take it home to make a Jack-O-Lantern.  Traditionally carved out and lit by candles to ward off evil spirits, this versatile vegetable has become an essential part of Halloween for many families.  If you have never carved one before, follow this simple guide on how to carve a pumpkin and you will soon have a glowing face.

Choose a Pumpkin

Large, smooth pumpkins are the best for carving, and if you plan to put a candle or tea light inside it is important to choose a pumpkin that is at least 20cm tall.  If possible, select one with a tall stem too, as this will take longer to rot.

Make the Lid

Using a pen – a CD marker is good – draw a rough circle on top of the pumpkin that is around 3-4cm outside of the stem in all directions.  It does not need to be perfect, but make sure it makes a shape that is bigger than your fist.

Then, take a long, sharp knife.  Cut into the pumpkin around the circle at an angle that makes the top part wider than the bottom.  This is important, as is will mean you can replace the “Lid” later without it falling into the pumpkin.  The slope of your cut will make a natural buffer.

Remove the top by holding the stem, and keep it safe, pulling off any seeds or stringy bits that are attached.  Then clean the pumpkin out.  This is less gross than it sounds, as the inside of a pumpkin is filled only with large flat seeds about the size of almonds, and some fibrous material that is kind of stringy.  The rest is simply a whole lot of space.  Scoop everything out with a spoon, leaving the inside nice and smooth.  If the pumpkin has thick walls it is a good idea to scrape back the flesh until the walls are just 2-3cm thick, as this makes it easier to carve your face.

Draw a Face

Using your pen, draw your face on one side of the pumpkin.  If you are unsure of what to draw then you can find great templates online.  A simple but effective face is triangles for the eyes and nose, and a zig-zag pattern for the mouth that looks like sharp teeth.  They are not meant to be perfect, so have some fun with your design.

Cut it Out

Using your sharp knife, cut out the face shapes you have drawn.pumpkin carving  Remember that a cut that joins two parts of the design will make a gap in between them, so be as accurate as you can with the knife.  Making scrapes of shapes in the skin that do not cut all the way through the flesh is a good way to add details like eyebrows, as it lets some light through even though there is no hole.

Light it Up

Place your pumpkin on a heatproof surface (it shouldn’t get hot underneath, but better to be safe than sorry).  Put a small candle inside and light it.  Then replace the lid.  And there you have your perfectly carved pumpkin, ready to scare away any pesky spirits that may be lurking.  As far as trick-or-treaters go, however, the presence of a pumpkin in your window is more likely to attract than repel them.  Get your treat-stash ready!

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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