The best pumpkins have hard, strong stems and no soft spots. Natasha Vaughn, Albany Bureau


Do you know how to pick the best pumpkin this fall?

With Halloween just weeks away, Stephen Reiners, a professor of horticulture at Cornell University and a vegetable expert, said there are key things to look for when choosing the best pumpkin this year. When you're out looking for the best pumpkin, use these seven tips from Reiners:

A hard sturdy stem

A soft or loose stem might be a clue that the pumpkin could be prone to rotting.

A green stem means the pumpkin has been freshly picked.

Tan or brown stems mean the pumpkin was harvested at least a few days ago.

Avoid the soft spots

Soft spots are a bad sign.

This could indicate that excess moisture or insects have gotten into the pumpkin and caused rot or mold.

And that means it shortens the time the pumpkin will look good sitting on your front porch.

Check for an uneven pumpkin

Before carving this year’s jack-o-lantern, try placing your pumpkin on a flat surface to see if it is going to roll.

Pumpkins with a flat bottom will be more likely to stand upright.

And that means they will stay in place when you put them on display.

Patience with the carving

Don’t rush to carve your pumpkin just yet.

A pumpkin will start to rot about a week after it’s carved.

So with Halloween still more than two weeks away, it might be a little early to clean it out.

Buying a pumpkin now and leaving it whole should last several weeks, and may still look all right through Thanksgiving —  that's if you can resist carving it.

Ripe is a matter of opinion

It’s OK to pick a pumpkin that’s not totally ripe.

Pumpkins continue to ripen and will get more orange after they are picked.

So choosing a lighter colored pumpkin now may result in a perfect deep orange pumpkin by Halloween.

Watch: 10 best pumpkin patches for corn mazes, hayrides and fall fun

Go small when baking

Pumpkins for carving are different from pumpkins for baking.

Larger pumpkins that are grown to be carving pumpkins are too stringy and can taste bitter. They have been grown for decoration and not eating.

Smaller pumpkins, sometimes called pie pumpkins, that weigh between four and six pounds are grown specifically for cooking and baking. So they have a better texture and taste better as food.

Bumpy is fine

Like a bumpy pumpkin? Go for it.

When choosing a pumpkin to carve, people often overlook pumpkins and gourds with hardened bumps and bruises.

But beauty should be in the eye of the pumpkin picker.

The bumps do not affect the pumpkin and can add a unique spooky effect to your Halloween decor.

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