Once Halloween has passed and the holidays are on the horizon, what’s to be done with all those pumpkins?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. This fall, give pumpkins a second life with these 13 tips.
1. Roast it, hollow it out and use it as a soup tureen or a punch bowl for cider. With any roasting tips in this list, don’t try to peel the pumpkin pre-roast. It’s vastly easier to scrape out softened insides afterward than trying to peel firm rinds off of a curvaceous cultivar.
2. Roast the seeds for a crunchy, natural snack. Clean seeds first in a big bowl of water; the gunk will fall to the bottom of the bowl and the seeds will float. If you have time, boil seeds in salt water for about ten minutes; this is said to produce crispier seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast until nicely browned and crunchy [40 minutes at 300º F]. For a spicy kick, sprinkle with chili powder. For a sweeter version, toss seeds in melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar and a dash of nutmeg.
3. Turn uncarved pumpkins into puree. Scrape out and dispose of the interior flesh and seeds. Cut the rind into chunks, then boil, bake or steam them until tender. Scoop out the softened insides and puree them in a food processor. [If there’s more than you can use right away, freeze the remainder.] Turn the puree into soup or vegetable stock, or use it in lieu of canned pumpkin for muffins, bread or pumpkin butter.
4. For homebrew enthusiasts, give pumpkin ale your best shot. Starting with fresh pumpkin, not puree, makes all the difference here. Some folks swear by pie pumpkins for flavor.
5. For a pumpkin face mask, mix puree with honey and milk. Mix four tablespoons puree, one teaspoon honey and one teaspoon milk. Apply to face, avoiding eye area, and let it set for 20-30 minutes. Gently wash it off with a warm washcloth. Follow it up with a moisturizer.
6. For a moisturizing hair treatment, mix 1/4 cup puree, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons coconut oil and 1 tablespoon yogurt. Apply the mixture to hair and comb it through; gloves are highly recommended for this sticky mixture. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes under a shower cap, then rinse well with cool water.
7. Paint it. Use washable paint with young children so that paint and pumpkin juice wash right off.
8. Find the Punkin’ Chunkin’ engineer within yourself. Build a catapult or air cannon with friends, drive way out and see how far old Jack can fly.
9. Fill it with potting soil and use it as a pumpkin-shaped planter.
10. Plant the seeds in your garden – next year’s jack-o’-lantern, coming right up!
11. Cut it in half, hang it from a tree and fill it with birdseed for birds and squirrels.
12. Leave a carved pumpkin in the yard for neighborhood wildlife, such as deer and raccoons.
13. If all else fails, compost it. Great fertilizer can come from the remains of great crops.
A few things to keep in mind:
Depending on the type you’ve brought home, the best use for it may be decorative rather than edible. Jack-o’-lanterns make great decorations but bland, stringy food. Sugar pumpkins and pie pumpkins are much better suited for consumption.
Be advised that uncarved pumpkins can last eight to 12 weeks if they’re healthy, while carved pumpkins last just one to two weeks.
Avoid exposing whole pumpkins to freezing temperatures – once everything thaws and the rind softens back up, it’s susceptible to rot.