Halloween is the perfect time each year to enjoy your pumpkin and squash crop. The world over goes pumpkin-mad, focusing on how to make the most delightful pumpkin carving designs. But let's not forget that the trusty pumpkin or squash is also a delicacy and if you've grown it from pumpkin seed yourself, you'll be all the more determined to avoid wasting the precious pumpkin.
A recent study showed that waste from Halloween celebrations included eight million pumpkins which became food waste.
The National Trust is this year encouraging people to look to nature this Halloween and celebrate using things to hand and avoiding wasting your pumpkin. The head gardener at Ham House, Rosie Fyles, believes that nothing from a carved pumpkin need go to waste. She says: “The fantastic thing about carving or using swedes, squash or pumpkins for decoration is that nothing need go to waste.
And as long as you haven't painted your pumpkin, you can reuse it! Below are some tips from expert pumpkin carver Lyndsay Hooper, on how to use your pumpkin properly this Halloween. Most pumpkins are edible to both animals and humans, but do always double check that you have an edible pumpkin before you cook it.
What to do with pumpkin innards
Everything from inside your pumpkin can be recycled or used. Pumpkin innards, the stringy orange mess which you scoop out with a spoon ahead of carving, can be roasted, or pureed for cooking in soups. And the pumpkin seeds can easily be roasted (see below).
Saving pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be a tasty treat for humans or the birds or squirrels at this time of the year. Rather than scooping them out of your pumpkin when you carve it and throwing them away, why not pick out the seeds and leave them to the side to dry out. Then you can do a series of things with them, as we explain below.
How to roast raw pumpkin seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds are a healthy, hearty snack that can be eaten alone or on salads. It's easy to prepare them and once you have them you can use them for baking, or sprinkling over soups too.
The first step is to pull out all the pumpkin innards and then to separate the stringy pumpkin innards from the seeds themselves. Once you've done that, rinse the seeds thoroughly and spread them over a large baking tray.
Choose what you want to flavour your pumpkin seeds with, you could opt for paprika, sea salt, chilli flakes. Cover the seeds in your flavour and in a few glugs of olive oil.
Bake them at 180 degrees C for about ten minutes.
When to plant pumpkin seeds
There's another significant use for the pumpkin seeds you pull out of your carved pumpkin... Growing next year's batch!
Planting pumpkin seeds is usually done a month before the last frost in the new year, so that your crop is ready for late summer/autumn time. You can plant your pumpkin seeds as late as May. And if you've grown them in a greenhouse you'd ideally overwinter your saplings before planting them in the ground. Here's our full guide on growing pumpkins.
Once you've pulled the seeds from your pumpkin, make sure they are dry and clean and spread them out on a paper towel and leave them for a week in a cool dry place. Once you've done that, you can try planting them.
What to do with your leftover pumpkin
Lyndsay Hooper suggests changing your carved pumpkin into a bowl-shape and leaving it outside to feed the birds. A carved pumpkin will also happily mulch down onto a compost heap, helping to make excellent soil. The same goes for the seeds too, which the birds will love.
There are a host of tasty pumpkin recipes out there, including our suggestion of spiced pumpkin pasties. We would also recommend two tasty pumpkin oil recipes, at the end of our feature on the secrets of Austrian pumpkin seed oil.
We also love Aaron Bertelsen's gorgeous recipe for pumpkin pie.
The perfect pumpkins to grow
- ‘Baby Bear’ is small, weighing 500g to 1kg, and perfect for soups and pies. The seeds are semi-hull less, so can be toasted for snacks.
- ‘Atlantic Giant’ (also known as ‘Dill’s Atlantic Giant’) is for those who want to break records. Apparently this kind of pumpkin can reach a weight of up to 780kg (see www.howarddill.com).
- ‘Jack O’Lantern’ is the best for carving at Halloween, with good orange flesh and a decent size – between 5kg and 7kg.
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