Picking the Perfect Pumpkin

Choose a pumpkin that's not damaged and is evenly firm. Check it all over for nicks, cuts, pits or soft spots that can lead to rotting and discoloration.

Make sure the stem is attached. Infections can invade easily and cause rot. Many rot organisms love sugar, and pumpkins are full of it.

Store it carefully, especially if you pick it from the vine yourself. Cure a fresh-picked pumpkin by keeping it in a dry place. Don't handle or disturb it. Curing toughens the rind, making it less prone to rot.

Use a sharp, clean knife to cut open the pumpkin. Then clean out the pulp and rinse the cavity. Use a paring knife to carve the jack-o'-lantern features.

If you plan to preserve your pumpkin, decorate it with non-toxic paints, markers or stickers. The cut flesh will dry out quickly and can rot more easily, making it unfit for canning or freezing.

Don't waste the flesh. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A and potassium. One-half cup of cooked pumpkin provides more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. And one cup of cooked pumpkin contains only 81 calories. It's low in fat and sodium, too.

From the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service at http://www.ces.uga.edu


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