Learn how long carved pumpkins last, so you can carve your Halloween pumpkin at the best time. Plus, get tips on how to make carved pumpkins last longer.

By Katie Holdefehr

While it may be tempting to show off your impressive carved pumpkins throughout October, It’s a smart idea to learn how long carved pumpkins last so you can carve your Halloween pumpkin at the best time. To make your carved pumpkins last longer, we’ve consulted a couple pumpkin pros for their top tips. Follow their advice, and your masterpiece is guaranteed to look fresh on Halloween night.

When Should You Buy Your Pumpkin?

The best time to pick a pumpkin is within a week of when you plan to carve it, recommends Marc Evan of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. “Look for a large pumpkin, heavy for its size, with unblemished skin,” says Evan. And be sure to avoid the telltale sign of an older pumpkin: a dry, brittle stem. Look for a fresh, green stem that’s about three to five inches long. “You can tell when a pumpkin is ready to harvest when its skin hardens,” says Sarah Perreault, senior editor at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The best test is to press your fingernail into the flesh. If it’s difficult to do, the pumpkin is ready, but if you can pierce it easily, it’s not ripe yet. And whether you're picking right from the patch or plucking from the aisles of a store, avoid any gourds with visible blemishes, cracks, or soft spots. “Be sure to check the bottom of the pumpkin, too,” she says.

Where Should You Store Your Pumpkin?

Once you’ve picked your pumpkin, how you store it will determine how long it lasts. “Store in a cool, dry bedroom (under the bed is good), or in a cellar or root cellar—anywhere with a temperature around 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” Perreault advises. Resist the temptation to show off your pumpkin on the stoop or in a sunny window, where the warm temperature will cause it to decay quickly. If you can’t stand the idea of an empty stoop this fall, buy some pumpkins to leave on display outdoors and hide those you intend to carve indoors, out of direct sunlight.

How Long Do Carved Pumpkins Last?

So, how long before All Hallows’ Eve should you start working your DIY magic? The later, the better, the pros suggest. “Carve no more than three days before Halloween,” Evan recommends. Luckily, with the 31st landing on a Tuesday this year, you can carve your pumpkins on the weekend and they’ll still look fantastic when trick-or-treaters arrive. How long your pumpkins last will depend on the temperature, and with the unseasonably warm weather in many parts of the country, they may only look good for about one week.

How to Preserve a Carved Pumpkin

1. Keep it under wraps: If you absolutely must carve your pumpkin earlier, you can preserve your carved pumpkin by keeping it wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated when not on display.

2. Protect it: Swipe some petroleum jelly onto the carved parts of the pumpkin. It will serve as a protective layer that keeps moisture in and prevents the pumpkin from drying out and looking shriveled.

3. Give it a dip: And if your pumpkin starts to shrivel before the holiday? Maniac Pumpkin Carvers suggests reviving it with an ice bath with a capful of bleach added (just be sure to remove any lights or electronics before dunking). This quick dip helps deter mold growth and miraculously brings pumpkins back from the dead.

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