Carved pumpkins are susceptible to rot, but there are ways to stave it off.
At this time of year, as the weather cools and the leaves start to fall, it is tempting to carve a pumpkin in preparation for Halloween. But carved pumpkins, unfortunately, do not last. They look good for up to five days, but then they start to soften, fall in on themselves, and turn black with mold.
There are, however, a few tricks to prolonging a jack-o-lantern's life that might be worth a try this season. At the very least, it's an excuse to get a head start on that seasonal decorating. Here's what you can do for perkier, picturesque pumpkins.1. Choose a good pumpkin to start. Avoid all bruises, blemishes, and softness that could be entry points for bacteria. Buying local ensures the pumpkin has traveled a shorter distance, minimizing bumping and bruising in transport.
2. Wash the pumpkin in soapy water before carving to get rid of any bacteria or mold on the surface.
3. Clean out the inner cavity thoroughly. The fewer strings and seeds there are, and the drier the interior, the less attractive an environment it is for bacteria to grow.
4. Disinfect the carved pumpkin. You can do this by spritzing a Castile soap solution inside and outside. The Kitchn recommends using 1 tbsp Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap in 1 quart water, but the soap can also be replaced with bleach or a combination of tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract.
5. Dry it upside-down. Turn the carved pumpkin upside down, without the lid, to allow any liquid to drain out. This reduces risk of rot. Apparently, opening silica packets and spreading the contents on the bottom of the pumpkin also does a good job at deterring moisture.
6. Use vegetable oil on cut edges. Rub the oil in to lock in moisture and inhibit bacterial growth. Petroleum jelly is another alternative, as long as pumpkin has been sprayed with bleach ahead of time, and can be smeared around the inside as well. Do not use a real candle inside if you do this.
7. Protect the pumpkin. Keep it in a covered area, away from rain and direct sunlight. The colder it stays without freezing, the longer it will keep. You can put small ones in the fridge at night.
Please remember that preserving a jack-o-lantern is merely aesthetic. Never eat a carved pumpkin!