Pumpkin Safety?

In the past I have decorated with pumpkins (mainly non-eatable decorating kind) because I didn’t see a need to purchase a fresh, real pumpkin just to discard it after Thanksgiving.  But, now that I have a little one in the house being exposed to all the fun of Jack-O-lanterns it seems I have entered the world of pumpkin patches and pumpkin decorating.  In fact, this morning before leaving the house we discussed where the black marker is located so we can “color” our pumpkin tonight!

For those who like to celebrate fall or get into the Halloween spirit, decorating pumpkins can be a fun family activity as long as everyone is participating in a safe way.  As with most things there are a few simple things to be aware of as you have your family pumpkin fun this fall.

All carving should be done by an adult.  Younger children can draw patterns with markers, glitter, paint and other art supplies. They also can participate during the carving process by cleaning the pulp and seeds from the center.

Pumpkin carving kits, which generally include a variety of special tools designed to make carving easier, can be purchased. But one or more sharp knives of different sizes also can be used to cut off the top and create the pattern.

Seeds and strings can be removed using a sturdy metal spoon.

Flashlights, battery-operated flameless candles and glow sticks are great options if you want to add a light source to your carved pumpkin.  With Oklahoma wind it is risky to use real candles, but if you do the pumpkin should rest on a sturdy surface away from flammable items such as curtains, furniture and other decorations.

After a carved pumpkin has been left at room temperature for several hours or days, the meat is not safe to eat.   That means you should not try to turn your fall decorations or Jack-O-Lantern into pumpkin pie if it has been cut and gutted!  Seeds can be roasted or dried, though, and for guidance on that process, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at www.nchfp.uga.edu.

At the end of the season, carved pumpkins can be composted, rather than tossed in the trash, as long as they are not decorated with non-biodegradable materials that cannot be easily removed.

Pumpkins also can be broken up and scattered in a garden space or landscape bed to allow for decomposition and return of organic matter to the soil. Cutting or breaking it up into smaller pieces will help with and speed up the decomposition process.

For more information on safely handling pumpkins during the fall and Halloween celebrations, contact the local Extension office.

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