Autumn is the time to enjoy colorful leaves and a variety of decorative gourds and pumpkins. Traditionally, people carve faces and decorations into their pumpkins, but as an alternative, you can dry the pumpkins yourself to enjoy them throughout the season and beyond.
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Select a Pumpkin
If you are planning to dry a pumpkin you purchased from the store, it is best to go in early so that you have the best selection. It will also ensure that you can begin the drying process right away rather than allowing the pumpkin to continue to ripen or rot at the store.
Since you are drying the pumpkin for decoration, the size and shape are important, so select what will fit best with your decor and vision for the season. Also, make sure you select a pumpkin that is in excellent condition. Avoid pumpkins with cuts, bruises and rotted areas.
If you grow your own pumpkins and gourds, make sure to leave the ornamental gourds on the vine for as long as possible. Wait until the stem has dried and turned brown but make sure to harvest them before the first frost, which can damage the gourd.
Dry the Pumpkin
Before you start the drying process, you need to clean and disinfect the pumpkin. This will reduce the risk of rot and help your pumpkin last longer. Soak the pumpkin in a diluted bleach solution with a bit of dish soap. After about 15 minutes, rinse the pumpkin thoroughly to remove all of the soap and bleach and then dry the pumpkin with a clean cloth.
Set up a wire rack or pallet in a cool, dry location in your home. You want air to flow all around the pumpkins. Avoid direct sunlight, which can bleach the color. Place the pumpkins on the rack and make sure there is space between each pumpkin. Check the gourds periodically to rotate them. Immediately discard any pumpkins that have mold or rot. Speed the drying process by drilling a small hole in the bottom of the pumpkin.
Depending on the size and type of pumpkin, it can take a few months to fully dry the pumpkin. Smaller pumpkins may only take a couple of weeks. When you shake the pumpkin, you should hear the seeds rattling on the inside.
Decorate and Display Pumpkins
Once the pumpkins are fully dried, you can start displaying them. Wash the gourd again and scrape off the outer layer of skin. You can use a sharp kitchen knife to maintain a smooth surface or sand the skin with steel wool for a more textured look.
You can prolong their life by coating them with floor or furniture wax or a matte polyurethane paint. You can also get creative and paint colorful designs on your dried pumpkins. Then, display your dried pumpkins with your other decor. You can use them as a centerpiece among fall foliage or as an accent on your fireplace or end table. Consider cutting off the top of the pumpkin and using it as a pot or vase for dried flowers.