Pumpkins are the centerpiece of fall décor according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
Picking the right pumpkin is, in many ways, a matter of personal preference because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
“Success in selecting a pumpkin is not about shape, but the initial quality of keeping it fresh throughout the Thanksgiving season,” Byers said.
According to Byers, good color development is important in a pumpkin however, several other considerations and inspection points are more important.
“Avoid any pumpkins that have cracks or splits. Gently squeeze or press your fingers into the fruit. A fresh pumpkin should be solid to the touch,” Byers said. “You want a hard rind that can’t be scratched with your fingernail.”
It is important to pay close attention to the blossom or bottom end and area around the stem.
“Be sure and avoid pumpkins that have soft spots or sunken areas where decay has already started,” Byers said.
For pies, choose smaller pumpkins that have lots of flesh. For carving, choose a pumpkin that is thinner walled.
When handling and carrying a pumpkin, be sure to use care and not use the stem as a handle.
“To prevent damage be sure and grasp your hands and arms around the pumpkin and carry it from the bottom,” Byers said.
A good solid and healthy pumpkin should keep for several months or at least through Thanksgiving if stored at 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit according to Byers.
“Pumpkins store best under cooler conditions, but hard freezes in the season will damage pumpkins causing them to turn to mush,” Byers said.
MU Extension has a great article about the history of pumpkins online at http://ipm.missouri.edu/meg/2013/10/Pumpkin-A-Brief-History/.