Tips and tricks for carving up the perfect pumpkin

Whether you're a master gourd sculptor or someone who wants to use markers and stickers, we're now just week's away from jack-o-lantern go time. Here are some ideas.

'Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year — we love it'

Pumpkin carver Sudeera Gangodage shows off his latest Halloween creation. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

By day, Sudeera Gangodage is a banker with ATB Financial in Edmonton but at this time of year he's carving out much of his spare time to spend with pumpkins. 

"This is one of my hobbies," explains the sculptor, who's been at it for five years now. Gangodage believes starting with the right gourd is key.

"I try to find a good shape for my creations, so basically try a good round shape," he said. "I try to carve out a face which most of the time I make it funny, kid friendly, not too scary."

His advice is to start slowly with a simple design carving from the surface to the inside and remember, "the eyes are the most important part, to make it come alive."

Gangodage uses a variety of implements from pottery tools to dental picks for the fine details. Each pumpkin he carves can take up to five hours.

Sudeera Gangodage is sharing his pumpkin carving tips and tricks from Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm in Bon Accord, Alta. 1:52

"Every pumpkin is different so I just try to see what kind of face is hidden underneath, that's kind of fun," he said.

His tip for keeping your creation looking good until the Oct. 31 is Vaseline. "It will seal the skin, which will stop the dehydrating and slow down the shrinking process."

Vicki Budinski, a special event florist at Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm, said there are options for kids and adults who don't enjoy carving pumpkins.

She recommends decorating pumpkins with paint, markers, stickers and other stuff.

"You can even add some jewels in between to give them a little bling," Budinski said.

Creatively stacking pumpkins one of the design ideas at Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farms near Bon Accord, Alta. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

Budinski also likes to place pumpkins on top of one another in planters to make a statement at the door.

"I grabbed this nice big beauty of a pumpkin, and I just took a black Sharpie and made some stripes all the way around — something fun, simple. It took me about maybe five minutes to do and what we're going to do is keep stacking."

It pleases pumpkin grower Tam Andersen to see the creative ways her gourds are being used. The owner of Prairie Gardens grows 10 acres of pumpkins, or about 100,000 plants annually.

Pumpkin farmer Tam Andersen at Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm near Bon Accord, Alta. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

"They're all hand-planted in the spring and all hand-harvested in the fall and we bring them all indoors into this warm greenhouse to cure the rinds, which is a way we establish a really nice strong skin on a pumpkin," Andersen said. 

That thick exterior can help a jack-o-lantern last a little longer.

"Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year — we love it," said Andersen. 

You can see more from Prairie Gardens this week on Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday and noon and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV on CBC Gem or on demand here

Mini pumpkins decorated by kids visiting the farm. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

About the Author

Adrienne Lamb is an award-winning journalist based in Edmonton. She's the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. Adrienne has spent the last couple of decades telling stories across Canada.


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