A Jack-O’-Lantern Type Pumpkin is a large ornamental pumpkin meant for display.
It is particularly used, carved, for fall displays outside the home. You can buy inexpensive carving kits that give you a lot more control than a knife out of the kitchen drawer.
Painting instead of carving is becoming popular now, especially because it’s a safe activity that children can do.
Generally, if a pumpkin is classed as a “field pumpkin”, it’s a Jack-O’-Lantern type.
Consumer preference seems to vary by decade as to whether rounder or taller ones are preferred. Lop-sided ones, or ones that are flat on one side because of where they grew on the ground, fetch lower prices. A level bottom is also important.
Jack-O’-Lantern Type Pumpkins have to have either enough ridge to look like a pumpkin, but not so much ridge that they are a nuisance to carve, or have a completely flat surface, making them easy to decorate by painting.
The stem of a pumpkin is referred to as the “handle”, and occasionally as the “stalk” or “stem”; more technically, you’ll see it referred to as the “peduncle.” It’s important to have a firmly-attached handle on a Jack-O’-Lantern Type Pumpkin that won’t come off when people lift the pumpkin by the handle. The handle is an important decorative element that people want.
Different sizes of pumpkins are popular for different purposes.
Obviously in most people’s minds, the bigger the better, but then if they’re walking home with it from the store, reality sets in as to how heavy a pumpkin they want to carry.
Generally, the minimum size for a Jack-O’-Lantern Type Pumpkin is about 12 pounds (5 ½ kg.)
- Small: 12 – 15 lbs (5 ½ kg to 6 ¾ kg);
- Medium: 16 to 19 pounds (7 ½ to 8 ½ kg);
- Large: 20 pounds (9 kg) and up.
Extremely large ones you have to grow yourself. They don’t come on the market commercially except perhaps when sold directly by an individual grower.
Miniature ones are quite fiddly to carve, and don’t give much “room” to be creative, except for those with superb fine motor control in their hands. These are usually just displayed grouped as they are in table arrangements, etc, as part of an autumn harvest display.
In carving pumpkins, remember, you can also turn it on its side, so that the handle becomes a sticky-out nose — but check first to see whether your pumpkin has a flat enough side somewhere that can act as a stable base.
Generally, the flesh of a Jack-O’-Lantern Type Pumpkin is not all that great for cooking, no matter how chirpily some craft-enthusiast tells you otherwise. The pumpkins are just too big — the flavour is spread over too much area, making it weak, and the flesh is often coarse, and almost always watery. Many people tell horror stories of following this chirpy advice, going to tons of work, and ending up with embarrassing pies that are watery and won’t set, stringy and tasteless to boot.
Some get around the problem of the flesh being coarse and stringy by puréeing it in a blender, and then slowly simmering or microwaving it uncovered, to evaporate excess water off. But, in the end, they still have to add so much extra flavour into the mixture to compensate for the lack of taste in the flesh that the pie could really be called just a spiced custard pie.
You can roast the seeds, though, and eat them, though pumpkin seed enthusiasts tend to prefer varieties of pumpkins with hulless seeds. Not many hulless seed varieties can also be used as Jack-O’-Lantern types.