Pumpkins might be the most common food to carve at Halloween, but they are not the only option — try a watermelon. Scoop out the flesh inside (eat it!) and carve it like a jack-o’-lantern, inspired by the designs of artist Jay Ball. For those more advanced, take a cue from the Thai food-carving art Kae-sa-lak and instead sculpt a flower or face onto the front of the melon.
When set upside down, a butternut squash makes the perfect medium for a carved creature resembling a Scream mask. Set the squash on a wooden stake and place it in the front yard to scare trick-or-treaters when they come to visit.
Rolling the pumpkin when it's growing on the vine is essential to ensure that the squash grows round. Yet, it's not uncommon to find one flattened on one side, like this one here (left). With a natural countenance (the stem for a nose), it's my favorite kind of pumpkin to carve, with a toothy grin for something extraordinarily creepy.
Another no-carve, crafty way to decorate pumpkins without pulling out the paintbrush is to use ribbons and ric-rac to create colorful designs that will stand out amongst the rest.
Long before pumpkins were used to create jack-o’-lanterns, those living in Ireland and Scotland in the mid-19th century instead carved menacing faces out of local vegetables like turnips or rutabagas (also known as swedes). Just be sure to use a small carving knife — no kitchen knives — and lots of care when trying this at home.
Squash and melons aside, vegetables like bell peppers are perfect for carving, too. Carve faces out of six different peppers, line them up on the mantel, and then place a tea light inside of each for an unusual display for a Halloween party.
When decorating the house for Halloween, don't stop at just orange squash varietals. Choose gray-black Hubbard squashes for carving witch-like countenances, and white pumpkins, like these Luminas (left), to create ghosts. Place the pumpkin on a table or pole, and cover it with cheesecloth. Use a black Sharpie to draw a ghostly scowl.
If you’re decorating pumpkins with young kids and don’t want sharp knives in the small hands — or are terrified of wielding one yourself — all hopes of beating out your neighbors with a cooler creation are not lost. Pull out your paintbrush and a pot of chalkboard paint! Once your squash dries (it takes about three days), use colorful chalk to make funny faces that can change with your mood.
Short on time? Pick up a couple of packages of crazy-patterned tights, or old fishnets, and dress up that orange orb in less than a minute.
Don’t live near a pumpkin patch? Instead of picking your own, bake your own! Start with a simple salt dough recipe, and use a knife or toothpick for scoring. Once they’re baked and cool, paint and decorate the pumpkins for a kid-friendly craft that can then be used to decorate a table or mantel.
When lighting up a Halloween pumpkin, candles and LED lights aren’t the only option. Carve as much of the flesh as possible from the pumpkin, then use a ¼-inch awl to poke dots out of the sides. Then bring out the Christmas lights and stick one bulb into each hole for a spiky alternative to a traditional jack-o'-lantern.