Americans love fall, and they love pumpkins. Of the 1.6 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. every year, 80% show up in stores, farms, and garden centers in October. The vast majority of these will be used as decorations, particularly for Halloween. That’s an awful lot of pumpkins.
But once fright night is over, those pumpkins are still around. The ones that have been carved will start to mold, collapse, and become scarier-looking than they were as jack-o’-lanterns. As long as the rind stays intact, uncarved pumpkins will hold up through to Thanksgiving and beyond. But the day after that, green and red replace orange, yellow, and black as seasonal colors, and pumpkins start to look out of place.
So what do you do with a pumpkin once you’re done displaying it? Pumpkins, after all, are biodegradable. Just throwing it away is wasteful, and unnecessarily adds to landfills. Here are some ideas.
If you want to get extra use out of a pumpkin you are carving:
Remove the pumpkin seeds and cook them to eat as a snack.
Use the innards for cooking. Make pumpkin bread or pie, pumpkin soup, stock or risotto.
Remove and freeze the flesh to cook with later.
Note: Pumpkins grown for decoration are bred for size and long shelf life. They might not taste as good as sugar pumpkins, which are bred for flavor. The bigger the pumpkin, the less likely it is to be tasty. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat it – it’s edible – but it’s best used in baked goods, where you can add sugar and spices to amp up the flavor.
Fill with birdseed and put out for the birds.
Chop (or smash) into small pieces and leave out for wildlife to eat.
Chop up and add to your compost bin. You might want to remove the seeds first, since they’re likely to sprout in the pile.
You can do all of the above suggestions for jack ‘o lanterns, or:
Give to a local farmer to feed livestock.
Donate to a local zoo for the animals to play with and/or eat. You can also donate them to animal shelters, community gardens, and other places that can use the pumpkins for either food or as an ingredient for compost.
Decorate them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other winter holidays you observe.
Important: Painted pumpkins should never be given to animals, and decorated pumpkins should have all inedible decorations removed.
Also, check with your community: Many gather used pumpkins and hold contests: throwing, catapulting, bowling, and other games.
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