Published on 06/17/99

Carve Halloween Pumpkin Early With a Little 'Magic'

Pumpkins are magical, and not just as a golden coach for Cinderella. Growing most of the summer and into the fall, they require patience and persistence in your garden. But they pay off in lots of ways.

High in vitamin A, pumpkins can be cooked into pies, soups, casseroles, breads, cookies and seed snacks. Or you can carve them into Jack-o'-lanterns. They come in sizes from a few ounces to hundreds of pounds.

"Magic carving" is a special advantage of growing your own pumpkins, especially for parents.

Start Early

While the fruit is still small -- the size of a softball -- make shallow cuts or ballpoint pen markings about one-eighth of an inch deep in the rind.

Be creative. Draw a jack-o'-lantern face or a child's name or any other design. The pumpkin will heal these wounds with scar tissue. And as it grows, these scars will expand. The face, name or design etched into the young fruit will become larger, raised and rough, and clearly visible.

What a delight for a child to find at harvest a pumpkin with his or her name on it, or a face smiling up at them.

Watch Them Grow

From mid-August to harvest time in October, pumpkins grow at an amazing rate. It can be fun to measure them and keep a progress record. But be careful not to break their fragile stems.

If you just can't manage a pumpkin patch, see if you can arrange with a pick-your-own grower to engrave some pumpkins for your family only. Then when your children go to pick their pumpkins, they would find them with their own names on them.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.