Jack-o-lanterns are a staple of Halloween decorations. Making one last throughout the season is a trick of the trade even some veteran carvers struggle with.
People young and old head to pumpkin patches to pick out the ideal pumpkins. Some prefer perfectly round ones, while others like tall, oblong ones. Whatever the decision, the majority of these pumpkins will be brought home and turned into jack-o-lanterns, or pumpkins carved with a design.
The key to having a jack-o-lantern ready and prime for Halloween haunting is carving it at the right time. Carved pumpkins will not last forever, so timing it right is key. In general, carved pumpkins will last for about a week if kept in a cool place and out of direct sunlight. A pumpkin left in midday sun and heat will likely rot or mold much more quickly.
For those planning on carving pumpkins for Halloween, it's best to do so a day or two before the big day. This way the design will be crisp and fresh. There also are ways to increase the jack-o-lantern's longevity.
Some of the best methods involve inhibiting mold growth and dehydration of the pumpkin. One trick is to submerge the cut pumpkin in a bucket of water for a few minutes after carving to moisten the flesh. Others say that spreading petroleum jelly on the inside of the carved pumpkin will help. Commercial chemical products that reduce the decay of the pumpkin may be effective as well. One can also try using a bleach-and-water solution to keep mold from growing.
Those who will simply allow nature to take its course should keep the pumpkin as cool as possible and remove as much of the flesh from the inside when carving. However, because no method is foolproof, the jack-o-lantern will most likely not make it more than a week, unless the goal is to discover new strains of mold growth.
For those who want a permanently ghoulish jack-o-lantern, it's best to purchase a plastic or ceramic variety instead.