With the evenings getting colder and darker, many of us will be gearing up for Halloween parties this weekend.
The quintessential decoration is a pumpkin carved with a ghostly face, which can sometimes take hours of stripping and carving to perfect.
All too often, all that painstaking work can be lost when, just hours before nightfall on October 31, the fruit collapses into mush.
To avoid this terrifying fate, professional pumpkin sculptor Szimonetta Zombori has revealed how to keep your pumpkin looking its best for Halloween.
This includes bathing in bleach to kill any bacteria that can accelerate decomposition, and rubbing petroleum jelly into the surface.
Professional pumpkin sculptor Szimonetta Zombori has revealed how to keep your pumpkin looking its best for Halloween
Mrs. Zombori trained as a stone sculptor, but then discovered a love for carving various foods, including watermelon, cheese and pumpkins
TIPS TO KEEP YOUR CUT PUMPKINS FRESH
- Choose a pumpkin with no moldy or rotten stem.
- Bathe with bleach.
- Keep it outside.
- Smear it with Vaseline.
- Spray it with lemon water and wrap it in cling film.
Mrs. Zombori was trained as a stone sculptor, but then discovered a love for carving various foods, including watermelon, cheese and pumpkins.
Now the Hungarian artist creates intricate engravings for major brands such as Google, Sainsburys and for the theatrical production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Sometimes the fruits need to stay fresh for days before displaying, but luckily she has a few tricks that keep them from rotting away.
1. Choose the pumpkin carefully
The first step to making the best pumpkin decoration on your street is to choose a healthy one to start with.
Signs of illness may begin to form on pumpkins after they are harvested, as a bruise or crack during transport can allow bacteria to enter.
Zombori told MailOnline, “When choosing a pumpkin, we need to make sure it isn’t rotten or moldy around the stem.
‘It has to be dry, otherwise your pumpkin will mold quickly, especially in the house at room temperature.
‘Never pick up a pumpkin by the stem, as it will break and the pumpkin will rot faster.’
2. Give it a bleach bath
After you’ve completed the carving, giving your pumpkin a bleach bath will kill any microorganisms that could eat the sugary fruit.
Growing in a field for most of their lives, they are vulnerable to all sorts of fungi, bacteria, and insects that are unlikely to have been washed away.
When you start cutting and breaking away from the pumpkin’s skin, it creates new openings for these organisms to infiltrate.
Mrs. Zombori said, ‘You can add a tablespoon of bleach to a gallon (4.5 liters) of water and give your carved pumpkin a good bath.
Then rinse well and dry your pumpkin. That means it lasts longer.’
3. Keep it outside
The artist recommends that you keep your pumpkin creations outside, in the coolest temperatures possible.
“It’s better to keep it outside and then it can be a nice decoration on your porch or front door,” she said.
“If you keep your sliced pumpkin at room temperature, the warm room will cause it to start rotting faster.”
Mrs. Zombori was trained as a stone sculptor, but then discovered a love for carving various foods, including watermelon, cheese and pumpkins
TIPS FOR CUTTING PUMPKIN
1. Have a cutting plan.
Zombori told MailOnline, “I never start carving my pumpkins without a plan.
“You have to think about what you can and can’t touch with your knife.
“First I draw the design on the pumpkin with a pen and then start carving.”
2. Keep a water bottle handy
Ms. Zombori said: ‘Pumpkins lose a lot of moisture as you cut them, so one thing I do while cutting is constantly spraying it with water, trying to keep it wet.
‘That helps to remain workable.
“Once I’m done with the carving, I wrap it in cling film and don’t remove it until I display the carving.”
3. Don’t just use the traditional pumpkin carving set.
If you want to carve like a pro, Ms. Zombori recommends ditching the traditional carving kit.
She uses Exacto knives, saws and tools for sculpting clay.
She said, ‘One of my favorites is the linoleum cutter, it’s great for creating intricate designs.
‘If you want to go for the traditional Jack-O’-Lantern style, you’ll need a stainless steel saw, poker tool and pumpkin scraper.
‘You notice a difference in how easy it is to work with these tools.’
As the temperature rises, decomposing microorganisms become more active and the rate of decay increases.
It’s also a good idea to keep your pumpkin sheltered from rain, which can cause mold.
When it comes to lighting the pumpkin, Ms. Zombori also recommends using an electric LED bulb instead of a candle, to avoid unnecessary heat.
She said, “Pumpkins get very bright, but they don’t give off any heat.
‘You want to keep the pumpkin as cold as possible, and if you have a heat source in it, the pumpkin will cook inside.
‘So if you use electric light, you also give a longer life to your carving.’
4. Smear it with Vaseline
Not just for chapped lips, Ms. Zombori swears by Vaseline to keep her sculpted creations looking almost good enough to eat.
It will act as a barrier that prevents bacteria-infested moisture from entering, but it also retains its own freshness.
She said, “If you cut out a stencil where you don’t cut through the pumpkin wall and just cut out the surface, then you can apply petroleum jelly to the surface.
Petroleum jelly keeps the pumpkin hydrated. It doesn’t dry out so quickly and it also gives a nice shine to your masterpiece.’
5. Spray with lemon water
Her final tip is to spray the surface of your ghostly gourd creations with lemon water after you’re done cutting.
These can then be wrapped tightly in cling film and stored in a cold place, such as the fridge or outside, before unpacking on Halloween night.
Ms. Zombori said: ‘When I had to carve 40 pumpkins for an event, I had to make sure that the pumpkins I cut for the first few days were as fresh as the pumpkins I cut on days four or five.
‘I succeeded with this trick. I watered and packed each pumpkin in the evening, and they were all fresh for the event.”
A ghostly photo that appears to make the sun glow with a Halloween pumpkin face was shared by NASA ahead of All Hallows’ Eve on Oct. 31.
Active areas on the sun’s surface provided the sneering smile and skewed eyes on the biggest “pumpkin” of them all.
The ghostly lit ‘face’ smouldered on the sun’s surface in 2014 when activity reached ‘solar maximum’, meaning more sunspots occurred.
It combines two sets of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths of 171 and 193 Ångströms (colored in gold and yellow), to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.
Read more here
The eerie illuminated ‘face’ glowed on the sun’s surface in 2014 when activity reached ‘solar maximum’, meaning more sunspots occurred