When we think of the fall season, a plant that often comes to mind is the pumpkin. We are fortunate to live in a climate that allows us to either pick our own pumpkins at area farms or buy them at local stores. Make sure if you do so that you follow these tips which will prolong the “shelf life” of your pumpkin. A healthy intact pumpkin can last well past Thanksgiving.

First, you want to make sure you choose a pumpkin that is all orange. If the skin is partially green, it might not get any riper.

Choose a pumpkin that still has a stem on it, but never lift or carry it by the stem. A pumpkin without a stem tends not to keep as long.

What do you plan to do with your pumpkin? The size you choose will depend on this. Pick a medium pumpkin if you plan make a jack-o-lantern, while a small pumpkin is the best choice if you plan to cook it.

Test ripeness by pressing on the shell with your thumb tip. A pumpkin that is ripe has a hard shell that will not easily dent. Do this test on the back or bottom of the pumpkin and not on the face of it. If you feel any soft spots, choose a different pumpkin.

If there are any holes in the pumpkin, this may be a sign of insect infestation. Put it back!

Pumpkins are with us through the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons and are so versa- tile in cooking and baking. You can make soup, bread, smoothies, and pie from its flesh, and bake the seeds for a snack. And if you just want to use it for a decoration, make sure to compost it when it starts to shrivel and put the seeds out for birds and squirrels. No part of it need go to waste. Enjoy!