Forget the Pinterest fails this year. The first step to a convincing jack-o-lantern actually starts at the pumpkin patch (or your local store). Set yourself up for carving success by selecting a pumpkin in its prime. Choose one with an intact stem—the greener the better. “The stem is the lifeline to the pumpkin, providing moisture and nutrients even after it’s been cut from the vine,” says Marc Evan, of ManiacPumpkinCarvers.com. “A missing stem or one that’s brown and brittle means your pumpkin won’t last as long.”
Keep your uncarved pumpkin out of direct sunlight and as cool as possible, and don’t carve it until right before your Halloween party or the big night itself. While an intact pumpkin can easily last a month or more, once you carve it, you’re looking at a life expectancy of as little as three days to maaaybe three weeks. “It is a piece of fruit,” Evan says. (For maximum longevity, he stores pumpkins—carved or not—wrapped in plastic wrap in a cool basement or refrigerator when not on display.)
Here, Evan and expert Tom Nardone, of ExtremePumpkins.com, offer their simple tips for carving a pumpkin like a pro.
illustration by Libby VanderPloeg