Post-Halloween Pumpkin Fever

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By Cristian DeRusha, Farm Director at Arden

horror movie characters on Travel with Terri for AroundWellington.com

The trick-or-treaters have gone home, and Halloween is officially over. You might be staring at your jack-o-lanterns and wondering what to do now that they’ve served their decorative purpose.

According to the United States Department of Energy, every year, more than one billion pounds of pumpkin get thrown away in the United States after Halloween, contributing to the 30.3 million tons of annual food waste. Not to mention that pumpkins in landfills release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So, before you toss your pumpkins in the trash, here are some other ways to say goodbye to these festive gourds and keep up that post-Halloween pumpkin fever!

  1. Start Composting

Instead of pitching your pumpkins in the trash, add your jack-o-lanterns to your compost pile. In just a few weeks, these gourds will break down and give your garden some much-needed nutrients, feeding the rest of your produce as the cool season settles in. It also helps that every single part of a pumpkin is compostable. I recommend removing the seeds unless you want to start the regrowing process early for next year. If you want to keep the seeds in your pile, just boil them for a few minutes so your garden gets all of the nutrients with none of the sprouting.

Because of their hearty exterior, pumpkins compost best when broken down. You can cut it down into chunks, or if you’re looking for a fun activity for your kids, put it in a bag and let them smash it! Once you break it down, add it to your compost bin or directly to your garden and cover with soil.

  • Start Cooking

There are endless possibilities for fresh pumpkins in your kitchen. Whether you want to pour your very own pumpkin spice latte, bake a warm pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, or blend the gourd into a velvety pumpkin soup, you’ll never run out of ideas to turn uncarved pumpkins that have been kept inside into delicious culinary masterpieces.

Pumpkin seeds are also an incredible vessel for flavor and make for a quick and healthy snack. Wash them to get rid of the pumpkin insides and dry them completely with a dish towel. In a bowl, toss the seeds in olive oil and the herbs or spices of your choosing. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, tossing every five minutes for even cooking.

Pumpkin goes well with a variety of seasonings like nutmeg, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, and ginger, so make sure you have fresh herbs and hearty spices in your home before cooking.

  • Save the Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are incredibly versatile, and if you want experiment with your backyard pumpkin patch next fall, you can save your seeds to plant and enjoy growing your own pumpkins. After scooping out the seeds and rinsing the pulp, take the extra time to clean the seeds thoroughly using a colander. Obviously, pumpkins have more seeds than you’d want in your garden, so sift through them and pick out the largest seeds. Plan on saving about three times more seeds than the number of fruit (yes, pumpkin is technically a fruit!) you’re planning on growing. You may end up with a new variety of pumpkin to showcase next year!

Lay the seeds out onto a dry paper towel in an even layer and place them in a cool, dry spot for one week. Once the seeds are dry, you can place them in a bag or envelope and save them in a cold and dry area of your home, or your refrigerator.

  • Freeze Your Leftovers

Pumpkin is a great ingredient year-round if you know how to preserve it. Freezing is the easiest way to do it, and helps the gourd stay nutritious even after the fall season ends. For the best results, boil your pumpkin meat until tender and either mash or puree until smooth. Use an ice cube tray to freeze the pureed pumpkin and save the cubes in a bag until you need them. For more detailed instructions on how to freeze pumpkin, click here.

Pumpkin doesn’t have to be a home decoration in October. With so many ways to use your leftover pumpkins, you’ll never throw your jack-o-lanterns or mantle decorations in the trash ever again!