Juggling jack-o-lanterns

When standing in a sea of orange at the local pumpkin patch, all pumpkins may look the same. But when it comes to carving, a little research and planning can go a long way.

"The perfect pumpkin is the one that calls to you and says 'Come take me home,'" says Boo Bunyon, manager of Randy's Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Patch in Lawrenceville.

Randy's carries pumpkins in different varieties that also serve different purposes. The small, dark colored pumpkins are designed for baking since they have a thicker, tastier pulp and are less hollow than other varieties. The ghost-rider pumpkins, which are more traditional orange in color, are specially grown to be carving pumpkins. The Atlantic Giant pumpkins, white pumpkins and the fantasy-type pumpkins, shaped like Cinderella's carriage, are popular for decorations.

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If you're going to carve, here are some tips to remember:

1. Today's choices come in a large variety of shapes, sizes and colors so choosing your ideal pumpkin starts by deciding ahead of time on the type of carving. This will decide the size and shape of your pumpkin.

2.Pick one that is ripe, meaning it is uniformally orange and free of bruises, nicks or gouges, especially if you are using a stencil as a guide.

3. When inspecting or carrying your pumpkin, never pick it up by the stem. It may break and can shorten the life-span of the pumpkin.

4. Other helpful hints when carving include: using petroleum jelly on your carving to preserve your creation and being creative by using the deformities, like bumps or scratches, in your pumpkin as part of your art.