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The Jack O'Lantern Science Mystery

"The Jack O'Lantern Science Mystery" artwork. Cartoon of smiling Jack O'Lantern


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Transcript-The Jack O_Lantern Science Mystery
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Why do carved pumpkins rot faster than uncarved pumpkins? That’s what Ari, an 11 year old podcast host, wants to know. To find out what’s making good Jack O’Lanterns go bad, we turn to squash detective/ scientist Michael Mazourek. Together, we track down clues to crack the case - and find out how we make a Jack O’Lantern last forever.


Michael Mazourek is a vegetable breeder at Cornell University. He specializes in squash, which makes him the perfect squash detective!

Photo of Michael Mazourek.

Michael developed a brand new kind of squash called "Honeynut Squash." It looks like a mini-butternut squash, and it's densely packed with flavor. We can't wait to find it and try it!

You can read the fascinating story of how Michael worked with a famous chef to create this new squash here:


Were you as shocked as us that pumpkin puree isn't made out of pumpkins?! Here's what a Dickinson Pumpkin looks like:

Photo of a Dickinson Pumpkin. Large and oblong.

This Atlantic article gets very deep into the mystery of whether the Dickinson can be called a pumpkin or not - and what is a squash versus a pumpkin, really? We highly recommend it.

Also, watch this mesmerizing video of a pumpkin harvest that Michael shared with us:

Another fun fact is that Illinois is the biggest producer of pumpkins in the United States.

Are we out of fun Halloween facts yet? FAR FROM IT. We also discovered that turnips were the original Jack O'Lanterns.

Photo of a carved turnip. Three holes cut out of a turnip.

Michael told us that these carved turnips would keep him up at night.


Michael gave us a few simple tips for saving and planting pumpkin seeds.

  1. Choose a ripe, orange pumpkin.

  2. When you scoop out the seeds, use a strainer to wash them and pull out all the strings.

  3. Spread them out to dry in a container or baking sheet for a week. Do not dehydrate them.

  4. When you bend a seed and it snaps, they're dry enough to save. If they are still wet, they will grow mold on them.

  5. Store them in a glass jar in a cool dry place like your refrigerator or basement.

  6. Plant in the spring after the last frost!

Let us know if you save your seeds or plant a pumpkin patch!


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