FOR FALL 2008, PUMPKINS GO GREEN, GO GLAM, GO WILD
Pumpkins aren't just for traditional jack o' lanterns any more.
Although Virginia's bright orange pumpkins remain the perennial fall favorite, they now have an array of colorful companions. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Grown pumpkins come in a variety of eye-catching colors and textures. They are available in pale green, burnt orange, white, tan and yellow among others. Sometimes the colors are combined. Sometimes they show an overlay of contrasting veining. Textures range from craggy and gnarled to smooth and even scalloped.
For those with a decorative bent, Virginia Grown pumpkins in every color and texture provide an ideal object for creativity. Wild or mild, let 'er rip when it comes to embellishing your pumpkin. Just be sure to start with a local Virginia Grown pumpkin so that it will stay fresh as long as possible.
If you decide to carve your pumpkin, cover the cut edges with a thin film of petroleum jelly to maintain the fresh look. With careful cutting, you can leave a layer of the pumpkin's membrane which will enhance your design with a golden glow when the pumpkin is lit from inside.
Choose a pumpkin with a smooth surface if painting is your decorating choice. Add a face – a self-portrait, perhaps? – your favorite monster or maybe a scary scene. The stem does not always have to go on top. Position it in front and it's a nose; behind and it can be a tail. Add a gourd for a head, your choice of ears and you have a pumpkin pet.
No matter what color pumpkin you choose, you can go green when you decorate it. Try recycling some items from around your house to achieve a unique and special look. Start with your junk drawer where you could find string or rubber bands to use for hair, wired bag closures to twist into eyebrows, bottle caps for eyes, and push pins to form the mouth. Or you could head outdoors for inspiration. Experiment with twigs for hair, leaves for ears, berries for eyes and glue on seeds to form a mouth. The refrigerator could be another resource, providing radishes for a mouth, broccoli for hair, yellow peppers for ears and a baby carrot for the nose.
For a change of pace, go glam. Create a gorgeous Jill o' lantern. Glue on a model mouth cut from a fashion magazine. Add glittery makeup surrounding rhinestone eyes. Long strands of curling ribbon could make an alluring hairdo, topped with a tiara fashioned from a tuna can embellished with buttons or stickers. Up the bling factor with sparkly thrift store earrings, then fling on a feather boa and this Jill is ready for the red carpet or the front porch.
If crafting is not part of your DNA, retailers have wonderful ideas and implements for carving and embellishing your pumpkin of choice. You'll find decorations to stick in, glue on and add to your pumpkin as well as patterns for carving.
With their arresting color and shape, unadorned pumpkins can take center stage all by themselves. Group several in varying sizes as the ideal fall centerpiece. Place a line of smaller pumpkins across your mantle for a contemporary touch. Alternate pumpkins and pots of colorful mums on your front porch stairs to ensure a warm welcome.
Pumpkins can also be used as containers. Hollow out enough flesh to accommodate a bowl to hold a fresh flower arrangement or an artful collection of dried leaves, branches and berries. Use small pumpkins as candle holders, making sure that both the candles and the pumpkins are well secured. Of course you should never leave candles burning unattended. Pumpkins can also be used as serving dishes for soup, vegetables or dips.
With so many choices, how do you select the pumpkin that's best for you? The first rule is to pick a local Virginia Grown pumpkin. That way you know it is fresh and will maintain its color and shape much longer. In the fall, local pumpkins are available at grocery retailers, farmers markets, pick-your-own farms and roadside stands. Visit a local Virginia farm or Farmers Market where you can choose your own pumpkin and have a wonderful time in the process.
Source: Virgina Government Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
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