Your Guide to Pumpkin Patches - and How to Choose the Best One

As September 22 marked the first day of autumn, many of us can now officially get ready to celebrate Halloween.

With pumpkins in season, now is the perfect time to visit a pumpkin patch and pick your own.

Whether you're looking forward to cooking with pumpkins or thinking about carving an elaborate jack-o'-lantern, you'll be sure to find what you're looking for.

This is how to pick the right pumpkin for you.

Check It's Ripe Enough

You can tell a pumpkin is ready to be harvested by checking the vines.

Once the vines have dried up and it's the expected color - usually orange or white - all over, it's ready to be cut.

If you pick up a pumpkin that still has green patches, it has not yet fully ripened and won't ripen any further or change color once cut from the vine.

Pumpkins at a pumpkin patch
When selecting a pumpkin from a pumpkin patch, think about whether you want to use it for cooking or carving Getty Images

Similarly, pumpkins with brown spots are likely overripe. Both underripe and overripe pumpkins will be harder to carve.

Fully mature pumpkins should be hard enough for short term storage. You can test this by pressing the skin with your fingernail.

If the skin cracks, it's not ready to be picked yet.

The ideal pumpkin for carving should have a hard shell but not so tough that you can't get a knife through it.

Look Out for Signs of Disease

Once a pumpkin starts to rot, it can worsen very quickly which is not ideal for a lantern.

Check the pumpkin over for bruises or soft spots, and be sure to check the bottom too.

Just a small nick could be enough for disease to get in.

If you live somewhere with a cooler climate, look for signs of frostbite too.

You can spot frost damage by checking the pumpkin's color around the stem. If it's duller than the rest of the pumpkin, it may have frostbite.

Pay Attention to the Stem

Stems are a good indicator of the health of a pumpkin.

Opt for a pumpkin with a stem that is about two inches wide and green. This is usually a sign that the pumpkin has been freshly harvested and will last longer on your porch if used as a Halloween decoration.

Never carry your pumpkin by the stem as though it may seem sturdy, it can break off easily.

Pumpkins at a pumpkin patch
Check for signs of disease or frostbite before taking your pumpkin home from the patch. Getty Images

Size Matters

Choose the right size pumpkin depending on what you want it for.

Pumpkins that are intended for carving were bred to be sturdier and can be challenging to cook with.

Generally, medium sized pumpkins are best for carving, while smaller pumpkins are better for cooking.

That said, there are some varieties of small pumpkins that can be good for kids who want to have a go at carving their own jack-o'-lantern, like Wee-B-Little, Baby Bear and the white Baby Boo.

For jack-o'-lanterns, white varieties are much easier to paint if you're planning on getting extra creative.

Selecting a misshapen or unusual looking pumpkin can also make your Jack-O'-Lantern extra spooky.

Family picks pumpkin at patch
While medium pumpkins are generally best for carving, there are some small varieties for children who want to create their own Jack-O'-Lantern Getty Images