They’re everywhere this time of year — pumpkins! Hundreds of them — in parking lots, pumpkin patches, in huge cardboard bins outside every
grocery store, outside and inside every home and business. Some end up getting smashed in the street by late-night hooligans, but nearly all of them end up in the local landfill. Pumpkins are such fun for kids and adults alike and, even though Halloween is over, we still have another couple of weeks of “Harvest Season.” Surely there must be a way to make better use of all those perfectly good gourds?
First of all, if you’re creating jack-o-lanterns, you could be cleaning and saving the pumpkin seeds. Roast them in the oven for a few minutes with a bit of olive oil and salt, and they’ll make a healthy and delicious snack. Can’t be bothered with all that mess? Bury the pumpkin guts in a hole in your backyard. In the spring, you may be rewarded with your own pumpkin patch!
Pumpkins also make for fun and delicious seasonal eating. The flesh is high in fiber and antioxidants, and is very gentle on the stomach. Look for certified organic pumpkins or ones labeled “pie pumpkins.” These are safe to eat and there are no pesticides used in their cultivation. I love this recipe for cheese fondue roasted in a pumpkin. It makes a bold visual statement for parties, and the melted cheese and roasted slabs of pumpkin meat are surprisingly filling and satisfying. Or just roast one and mash the flesh with some butter and brown sugar. Or make pumpkin puree to use as an ingredient in casseroles, breads, muffins or pies.
Add rotting pumpkins to your compost pile. They will qualify as part of your “greens.”
Wild animals LOVE to munch on pumpkins. Break them up coarsely and toss them outside for raccoons, possums, skunks, coyotes, squirrels and deer to eat. They also create natural fertilizer as they decompose.
Many zoos accept donated pumpkins for their animal enrichment programs. Wild animals like elephants, monkeys, hippos, meercats, bats, tigers, moose, and polar bears and brown bears have a grand time playing with them. Zooniversity’s Teddy Bear the Talking Porcupine will tell you exactly how much he adores munching some pumpkin. The good folks at Big Cat Rescue treat their cats to an annual Pumpkin Massacre.
Does your city have yard waste (green) recycling bins? Give them a call; many cities accept pumpkins as yard waste organic recycling, much as they do Christmas trees.
Make a squirrel feeder. Cut a hole in the side, and slather peanut butter and seeds inside. Tie the stem up with twine and hang it in a tree near a window. Watch hilarity ensue.
Use them for target practice. Destroying pumpkins is an excellent stress reliever. Afterwards, you can still toss the bits and pieces to wildlife.
Feeling silly? Make a pumpkin helmet and chase your kids. Bwahahaha!
Paint uncut pumpkins white and use them for Christmas decorations!
Just because Halloween is over doesn’t mean pumpkins have to go into the trash. Get creative and have fun with ways to reuse, replace and replenish this valuable winter gourd.