What to do with Halloween Pumpkins
Roughly 149 million Americans plan to carve a pumpkin as part of their Halloween celebrations this year, and the cost is projected to be approximately $804 million. (Source: www.finder.com/cost-of-pumpkins)
That's a LOT of pumpkins that are likely destined for a landfill, but it doesn't have to be that way. Pumpkins are food, after all, and there are lots of delicious uses for the seeds and pulp.
Of the 2 billion pounds of pumpkins produced, 1.3 billion pounds ended up in a landfill.
Carved Pumpkins are Wasted Food
You won't be able to use the pulp for cooking if you carve your Halloween pumpkin and use it as a jack o' lantern, so it's better if you leave the pumpkin whole and decorate it with specially designed foam stickers if you want to use it as a decoration. Pumpkins decorated with stickers can be just as festive as carved ones, and children can still have a lot of fun decorating the pumpkins with stickers instead of carving them (and it's a lot safer, too!)
You won't be able to use the pulp for cooking if you carve the pumpkin to use as a jack o' lantern.
When all of the witches, ghosts and goblins have gone away, you'll be able to make lots of delicious foods with the pumpkin that you've saved from the landfill (uncarved pumpkins can last up to 12 weeks before they start to rot). The basic ingredient for most pumpkin based recipes is pumpkin puree.
How to Make Pumpkin Puree
The best cooking pumpkins are small and weigh about 4 to 8 pounds. Their flesh is dense and contains a high percentage of sugar. These pumpkins are known as "Pie Pumpkins" or "Sugar Pumpkins."
- If you decorated your pumpkin with stickers, simply remove them before proceeding and remove any sticky residue. If you're starting with a painted pumpkin, you need to wash or scrape off all of the paint.
- Remove the stem by pulling off or use a knife to cut a sliver off the top of the pumpkin (including the stem).
- Cut your pumpkins in half or quarters, depending on the size.
- Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, remove the seeds and stringy fibers from the center. Rinse the bunches of seeds and fiberss under cool water to separate the seeds from the fibers. Make a vgetable stock by placing the fibers into a stock pot with any vegetables you have on hand (onions, carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms). Add a couple of bay leaves, cover with water and simmer for about an hour (stir occasionally). Dry out the seeds and set them out for birds or roast them to eat yourself.
- If you started with a very large pumpkin, you might have to cut it into smaller pieces so that they're about 6 inches wide and 6 inches high.
- Lay the pieces, flesh side down, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 400° oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until the pumpkin pulp is tender.
- Once the baked pieces cool down (about an hour), separate the pulp from the skin by using a large spoon or ice cream scoop. Use the skin as compost if you have a compost pile or compost bin.
- Place the pumpkin pieces into a blender or food processor a few at a time and start to puree until smooth. You might have to add some water to get the puree to a good consistency (you can also place the pumpkin pulp into a bowl and mash with a potato masher to make your puree).
- If you don't want to use the puree immediately, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or you can place it into a plastic bag or container and store it in the freezer until you're ready to use it.
You can watch a video of the process on The Food Network.
The puree that you make from your pumpkin is going to be much less dense than the canned pumpkin that you find at a grocery store, so you might have to tweak any recipes that you find by reducing the amount of liquids listed in the recipe ingredients.
You can thicken your puree by placing a large mesh strainer over a bowl with a cheesecloth under it. Put your puree into the strainer and press with a spoon or spatula to release water.
What You Can Make with Pumpkin Puree
Here's a list of links to recipes that use pumpkin puree:
|•||Pumpkin French Toast|
|•||Pumpkin Spice Latte|
|•||Pumpkin Pie Smoothie|
|•||Homemade Fresh Pumpkin Pie|
|•||Pumpkin Soup (you won't have to make puree before cooking this recipe)|
Almost all of the recipes above also include links to instructions on how to make pumpkin puree.
What to Do With a Carved Pumpkin After Halloween
More than 2 billion pounds of pumpkins will end up in landfills worldwide this season. If you choose to carve your pumpkin, it's best to compost it instead of throwing it away. Many cities throughout the United States have started after Halloween "Pumpkin Smashing" events.
Pumpkin Smashing Events
|•||Washington DC: Pumpkins for the People.org|
|•||Illinois (various cities): SCARCE.org|
|•||New York: NY Pumpkin Smash Events|
|•||Newton MA: Newton MA Pumpkin Smash|
|•||Missoula MT: Pumpkin Reharvest November 5|
Read about Smashing the Great Pumpkin-Waste Problem on Bloomberg.
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