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If you're looking for a great pumpkin to carve this Halloween season, take a cue from Linus and head directly to the patch. To locate a commercial grower in your area, contact your state agriculture department. Then you can call the farm directly to inquire about hours, prices and available varieties (Connecticut Field, Howden and Baby Bear are good bets for carving). Ask if the pumpkins are displayed at a stand or if you can harvest your own from the field. Do they charge by the pumpkin or the pound?

Once there, after your family has surveyed the lot, you're probably in for a patch-side debate over the perfect specimen. Whether you plan to decorate with a row of small and medium-size globes or a single huge one be sure the pumpkin you choose is symmetrical enough to rest squarely on a flat surface. Pass over any with bruises, cracks or broken stems, because they tend to deteriorate quickly.

Plan on carving no earlier than a day or two before Halloween-jack-o'-lanterns have short "step" lives. And remember to bring your porch pumpkin indoors on nights when the temperature is expected to drop below freezing.



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