12 Unique Alternatives to Carved Pumpkins

Out with the traditional jack-o'-lantern, in with something eerily original

October is here, and it’s about time to think about what kind of face or image to carve into a creepy jack-o’-lantern, if you haven’t already. When it comes to carving pumpkins, there is no question that neighbors silently compete with each other for the scarier, superior design. While some might ponder year-round what sort of countenance will top last year’s design, others will instead opt for something much different and truly unique — like a horrifying face carved out of the side of a butternut squash.

Instead of taking the traditional route with a pumpkin with a carved countenance this year, take an alternate route and choose something more unexpected to decorate the front porch or stoop. For starters, when shopping for pumpkins, consider the squash’s form. Instead of going round, opt for oblong or flat-sided. To ensure each vegetable is round, farmers traditionally roll the pumpkins so that each side has equal contact with the soil, yet not all make it. Some carvers will get all excited when they spot just the right Bert-shaped or deformed pumpkin when at the patch, and work with the unique features of the vegetable when planning the design — like making the gnarly stem the nose of a scowling face.

You need not wield a knife to create an extraordinary pumpkin this year, either. With some chalkboard paint and a brush, decorate a pumpkin whose face you can change every day of the week (once the paint cures). Can’t resist anything with sparkle? Let your inner Martha Stewart shine and glitter your pumpkin (or more) in a seasonal shade — or, if you really want, hot pink.

This year especially, having a bit of creativity when it comes to decorating for Halloween will prove to be important. With a massive drought in the South, and the entire Eastern seaboard feeling the devastation from late summer Hurricanes Irene and Lee, pumpkins are smaller and less plentiful than in years past. If a bright orange orb isn’t in your budget, though, don’t fear — just shop for materials at the grocery store. Long before pumpkins were used to create jack-o’-lanterns in the mid-19th century, those in Ireland and Scotland instead carved menacing faces out of local vegetables like turnips or rutabagas (also known as swedes). Try it yourself, exercising caution. You will need a raw vegetable, a sharp, small paring knife, and some patience when carving with care. Foods like watermelons and butternut squashes work equally as well. Even that lone green pepper that has been sitting in your produce drawer for two weeks will work.

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