UACES Facebook HALLOWEEN: Keep your jack-o’-lantern looking young through Halloween
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HALLOWEEN: Keep your jack-o’-lantern looking young through Halloween

Keeping a Halloween pumpkin looking its best begins with the selection.

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Oct. 24, 2023

Fast facts

  • Long-lived jack-o’-lantern starts with selection
  • Cooking pumpkins pack high nutritional values

(368 words)

(Newsrooms: with art)

HARRISBURG, Ark. — A little bit of olive oil can help your jack-o’-lantern keep its youthful countenance through Halloween, says Craig Allen, Poinsett County extension staff chair.

Allen says keeping a Halloween pumpkin looking its best begins with the selection.

Carved Pumpkins copy
Five artfully carved pumpkins adorn the front steps. Getting the longest life out of your jack-o'-lantern begins with selection. (Image by Julie Thompson, credit mandatory)

“Make sure the pumpkin is free from soft spots, cuts, bruises or punctures and that the flesh is hard,” he said. “Make sure that about 3 inches of stem is still attached.”

The hard flesh of a dry pumpkin makes it less likely to rot. Carving will open the way to collapse and decomposition. 

“Depending on the weather conditions, your jack-o’-lantern may last from a day to a week,” he said. “You can slow the dehydration process by coating all the cut parts with olive or other vegetable oil — including the inside.

“This acts as a barrier to dehydration, which causes the pumpkin to collapse,” Allen said. “Storing the jack-o’-lantern in the shade can help slow decomposition.”

Once the jack-o’-lantern has served its purpose, it can go into the compost pile.

Cooking pumpkins

Pumpkins are also good eats; however, “it is not recommended that you eat the jack-o’-lantern style pumpkins,” said Baxter County Extension Agent LeeAnn Blevins.

“You can roast the seeds, but once you’ve cut a face on the pumpkin and allowed them to sit outside, they are no longer ready to eat,” she said.

Pumpkins pack a good nutrition punch too. One-half cup of canned pumpkin provides 4 grams of fiber, no fat or cholesterol and has only 50 calories, Blevins said.

If you want to work with a fresh pumpkin, she said, there are a couple of ways to make the flesh usable. The first is peeling the pumpkin, cutting the flesh into chunks and steaming them. Once steamed, the chunks can be pureed and used in a variety of recipes.

“An alternative is to bake the unpeeled, seeded pumpkin halves in a 325-degree oven for about one hour or until tender,” she said. “Scoop out the flesh and then puree. Use the pumpkin puree for your favorite recipes immediately, or you may freeze it for up to one year in a freezer-safe container.”

Contact your county extension office for more information.

Learn more about pumpkins.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on X and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on X at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on X at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media contact: Mary Hightower