Carving scary or goofy faces into a pumpkin is a quintessential Halloween activity. You may assume the tradition is imported from the US, but it is actually recorded in the British Isles since at least the 1700s. However, English, Scottish and Irish revellers originally used turnips to create their creepy carvings of faces representing goblins, demons and spirits. British and Irish immigrants then brought the tradition to the US, where they used native pumpkins in place of turnips to create the big orange Jack o' Lanterns we are all familiar with today.


If you're planning on making your own Jack o' Lanterns this year, read on to find out the best time to carve your pumpkin to ensure it's looking its spooky best for Halloween.

When should I buy a Halloween pumpkin?

The good news is that you don't have to time the purchase of your Halloween pumpkin too carefully. If otherwise healthy, an intact pumpkin can last for weeks without rotting, thanks to its protective thick outer skin. The large, orange field pumpkins used as Jack o' Lanterns usually arrive in UK supermarkets a few weeks before Halloween.

However, once you cut into the pumpkin - for example, to carve into a Jack o' Lantern - that lifespan shortens significantly. Once the inside is exposed to air, moisture, bacteria and insects, you only have a matter of days to enjoy your carving before the pumpkin starts to succumb to natural decay.

When is the best time to carve a pumpkin?

With the above information in mind, we reckon the best time to carve your pumpkin is 3-5 days before Halloween. This gives you a chance to show off your Jack o' Lantern for a few days and still have it looking its best for Halloween night itself.

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Anything longer than a week and you risk having a mouldy or rotting pumpkin, which is a whole different kind of scary! A slightly decayed pumpkin might seem like a fitting Halloween decoration, but the whiff of the rotting fruit - yes, pumpkin is technically a fruit - will be unpleasant enough to scare off all but the most determined trick or treaters, so we wouldn't advise it!

How can I make a carved pumpkin last longer?

Mould thrives in warm, wet conditions, so make sure you have scooped out as much of the slimy insides of the pumpkin as you can, then pat thoroughly dry with paper towels.

However, dehydration can speed up decline, too, so you'll still want to give your pumpkin a daily spritz - some experts suggest using bleach and water in kill any developing bacteria, but this could risk harming any critters who have a nibble, so we recommend a white vinegar and water solution instead. A little vaseline applied to the exposed edges of your carving will protect the flesh from drying out, too. Some online hacks suggest using vegetable oil or hairspray for the same effect, but remember these are flammable - so only give it a go if you're planning on using artificial candles rather than the real thing.


Top tip: Don't forget, you can cook and eat the inside of your pumpkin once you've scooped it out, rather than letting it go to waste. Check out our tasty recipes for your Halloween pumpkin to get inspired!


Rebecca MessinaEditor,

Rebecca is the Digital Editor of Your Home and HomeStyle