Easy as pumpkin pie

Oct. 8, 2009, 8:01 a.m. | By Annie Buckley | 11 years, 3 months ago

Chips assists with helpful tips for pumpkin activities

Pumpkins are neglected for 10 months of the year, but just as the leaves begin to crunch underfoot, it's pumpkin season once again. Pumpkins, the quintessential fall fruit (yes, they're fruits) can be carved, baked or rolled down a hill in a pumpkin race. Chips is here to offer a guide to all things pumpkin for your fall weekends.

The jack-o-lantern's story

Many Americans, though they have been carving jack-o-lanterns and celebrating Halloween for years, do not know how the tradition began. According to the History Channel Web site, jack-o-lanterns originated from an Irish myth involving a character named "Stingy Jack." This Celtic rascal played tricks on the Devil and was restricted entrance into both heaven or hell. Then, Stingy Jack was sent into the night with only a lump of burning coal in a carved out turnip. The Irish then began a tradition of carving turnips into scary faces to keep Stingy Jack away. When Irish immigrants came to the United States, they discovered pumpkins to be perfect squash to carve, and jack-o-lanterns were born!

Haute pumpkin cuisine

After choosing and carving the perfect pumpkin, the goopy, seeded insides are perfect for fall treats. An easy recipe involves separating the seeds from the pulp and placing them into their own bowl. Then, wash the seeds in warm water and lay them out on a baking sheet overnight to dry. The next day, spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet after coating them in olive oil or butter. Season with salt and bake at 250 degrees for an hour, or until lightly toasted, tossing every 15 to 20 minutes. The seeds come out of the oven golden brown and yummy. Happy pumpkin munching!

Breaking out the knives

Remember how cool it was to cut triangles for eyes and a toothy smile and voila, you had the perfect jack-o-lantern? These days, newer and cooler designs have become easier for everyone to carve. Some of the latest designs include carved spider webs, ghosts pumpkins and Obama symbols. Do not be intimidated, however. Most people did not carve their pumpkins freehand. Pumpkin carving stencils are available for free download on countless Web sites, such as ExtremePumpkins.com. To carve a design, start by using a spoon to scrape out the insides of the pumpkin. Then, print out a stencil on regular paper, tape it to the pumpkin and punch out the stencil with a toothpick. Follow it up by removing the stencil and carving along the holes you punched. Voila, you have a professional quality pumpkin in just half an hour. While carving, it helps to purchase a pack of small-serrated knives for the details. Remember to get all of the inside flesh out of the pumpkin before lighting a candle to prevent burning your masterpiece to a crisp.

Finding the perfect pumpkin

Come October, pumpkins begin popping up on doorsteps and at every grocery and hardware store in town. Whether you're looking for those itty-bitty pumpkins or the massive ones, the challenge is finding the perfect pumpkin. Fortunately pumpkins are available for selection and purchase at several Montgomery County farms. The best is Homestead Farms, located in Poolesville, Maryland, which boasts hayrides to their pumpkin patch from late September through October, according to the farm's Web site. Instead of simply grabbing a pumpkin off of a teetering pyramid at the grocery store, you are free to roam the extensive farm fields and pick your own perfect pumpkin. When picking a pumpkin at a patch, make sure to snag one with a stem. Pumpkins with stems look better on your porch and last longer - plus, they're easier to carry. But whether you're at the patch or the grocery store, the best ones for carving are lighter in color with thinner skin, which is easier to slice while carving. Also, keep in mind that a nicely rounded pumpkin with a flat bottom will stand upright on your doorstep come Halloween.

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