Whether you spend three minutes or three hours creating your Halloween pumpkin, wouldn't it be nice if it lasted longer?
Never fear, there are plenty of tricks you can use to keep your pumpkin looking stellar, but first, think about how long you really need the pumpkin to last. The earlier you carve it before Halloween, the longer the forces of natural decay have to do their work. The suggestions below are for preserving the pumpkin, but some of the solutions may create problems for any curious wildlife that decides to nibble on your artwork. Keep animals safely away and dispose of your pumpkin properly.
In the battle to preserve your Halloween pumpkin, you're fighting both mold and dehydration. Here's how to prevent them from ruining your creation.
Clean. The best way to clean your pumpkin after carving is to use a little bleach. Bleach kills mold and will prevent it from attacking your pumpkin. You can either completely submerge your carved pumpkin into a solution of three tablespoons bleach to three gallons water, or you can use a spray bottle filled with water and a small amount of bleach to treat the carved areas. Let the pumpkin air dry after bleaching.
You can also try tea tree oil diluted in water as a antifungal, anti-mold fighter. But keep in mind this is a powerful essential oil; the smell alone will tell you that. Just as it can be used as an insect repellant, the oil can be be used in the garden and to keep mold away from your pumpkin, but if you use it, keep the pumpkin out of reach of children, pets and other animals. Some people are very sensitive to this oil, so test your diluted oil and proceed with caution.
Lubricate. Unless you want your pumpkin to look like a shrunken head, you may also need to apply a water-repellent lubricant to the cut areas to keep them from drying out. Petroleum jelly or vegetable oil will help keep the moisture in and keep your pumpkin looking good.
Another option is to use a store-bought pumpkin preservative spray like Pumpkin Fresh, which contains fungicide (to kill the mold) and lubricants (to keep the pumpkin from drying out).
If you need to preserve an uncarved pumpkin, try shining it with one of those ingredients to keep it looking fresh.
But a word to the wise: If you plan to eat your pumpkin after carving, refer to the first point, readjust your carving timing and skip all of these options. Carve the pumpkin close to Halloween so that it won't sit out for so long, and if you plan to roast the seeds or any of the flesh, carve away any spots that look moldy before you start to cook.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since publication.