When the ghosts and ghouls have gone home and the Halloween decor is packed into storage, we’re faced with a question:
What to do with our pumpkins?
The answer depends on how you chose to decorate with it. If you carved it into a Jack-o’-lantern and left it to sit on the stoop for a few days, that’s not good eatin’. It’s been exposed to bugs, dirt, candle wax, and bacteria — yuck. But that doesn’t mean its life has ended!
And if you set it out in a festive fall display and it’s still whole, you can still carve it up and add it to your fall feast.
Here are some ways you can use your leftover pumpkins this Halloween!
How to Reuse Carved Pumpkins
While we don’t want to eat a pumpkin that’s been sitting outside, you can preserve the seeds and stringy parts during the carving process and work a little magic in the kitchen with them!
If you’ve already discarded those innards, don’t worry — you can still give your carved Jack-o’-lantern a second life.
Roast Pumpkin Seeds
To roast pumpkin seeds, separate them from the stringy guts and rinse well. Lay them out in a flat sheet to dry.
Toss them with a little butter or olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 300 degrees until golden brown — about 45 minutes.
You can also use those pumpkin seeds to make a tasty pumpkin seed pesto, or as a crunchy topper for guacamole or hummus.
Make Pumpkin Stock
Homemade pumpkin stock makes a rich base for pumpkin soup, fall chowders, or pumpkin risotto. You can make a simple stock with the pumpkin strings after you carve your Jack-o’-Lantern!
Put all those insides in a big stock pot with any other veggies you have on hand, like onion, carrots, celery, garlic, fennel, and mushrooms. Add a bay leaf or two, cover with water, and simmer for about an hour, stirring a few times.
Then strain out the veggies, and you’re done! You can use the stock right away, or freeze it to use later in tasty fall recipes.
Feed the Critters
Local wildlife isn’t as discerning as we are, so they can still nosh on that pumpkin goodness.
Cut off the top half of the carved pumpkin and turn it into a festive bird feeder. Fill it with birdseed and hang it from a tree in your yard to enjoy the sights and sounds of fall birds as they migrate south.
Another option is to cut your pumpkin into small pieces for the foraging animals, like squirrels and deer who are fattening up for winter. Or donate it to a local farmer as a treat for their goats and pigs!
Add it to Compost
A simple way to keep your pumpkin out of the landfill is to repurpose it in your own garden. You can chop your pumpkin into small bits and add it to the compost heap for a dose of nitrogen as it decomposes. Balance it out with something carbon-rich to keep your heap healthy, like leaves, newspaper, or wood ash.
Remove the seeds first, as they can germinate and start to grow within your compost pile. Plus, the seeds make great snacking!
How to Reuse Whole Pumpkins
Common Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins have been bred for size and color rather than for taste. So if you have one of these giants, stick to baked goods. The addition of fat and sugar will enhance the pumpkin flavor and make it richer.
If you have a smaller pumpkin like the sugar pie or Jarrahdale varieties, you have lots of options, from sweet to savory!
Whip Up a Batch of Pumpkin Puree
Fresh pumpkin puree can be used in place of canned in just about any recipe. After splitting and roasting the halves of your pumpkin, scoop out the flesh and blend in a food processor. You can use it within a week, or freeze it for up to three months.
When using your pumpkin puree, don’t confuse puree with pumpkin pie filling. Puree is simply cooked and blended pumpkin, while pumpkin pie filling has been sweetened and seasoned for use in pies. You can use puree in place of pie filling, but you’ll have to add sugar and spices first!
Bake Pumpkin Bread
Moist pumpkin bread is a great use for fresh pumpkin. Instead of starting with a puree, this version by Alton Brown calls for shredded fresh pumpkin. You can also use the same recipe to make pumpkin muffins for an easy grab-and-go snack.
Make Pumpkin Soup
A creamy pureed pumpkin soup is just the thing for a chilly fall day. This recipe by Epicurious has lots of tasty Indian seasonings and rich coconut milk for a curry-style pumpkin soup. While it calls for pumpkin puree, you can easily substitute fresh pumpkin.
Eat Your Casserole Dish
How about a tasty fall casserole of mushrooms, ground beef, and rice — served right inside your scooped out pumpkin?
Try this “Dinner in a Pumpkin” for an impressive-looking centerpiece on a Sunday evening this November.
Bake a Pumpkin Pie
You can’t talk fresh pumpkin without talking about pumpkin pie! With evaporated milk, eggs, and lots of fall spices, a rich pumpkin pie is the perfect fall treat for these leftovers.
If that’s too simple for you, spruce up your pie with a drizzle of caramel or a crunchy streusel topping.
Blend a Pumpkin Smoothie
If you want the pumpkin pie flavor without all the baking, you can blend up a quick pumpkin smoothie.
Sweetened with banana and spiced with nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon, this tasty smoothie recipe is a lighter, healthier version of pumpkin pie that you can drink.
Save them for Thanksgiving
Uncarved pumpkins can last up to 12 weeks before they start to rot. So if your pumpkins are still whole and firm, hang on to them to add to the Thanksgiving dinner table for festive decor.
If they’re still going strong after Thanksgiving, give them a coat of red and green paint and keep them around for Christmas!
Visit the Pumpkin Patch!
Whether you’re looking for big carving pumpkins or little eating pumpkins, you can get them at the Barton Hill Farms Fall Festival and Pumpkin Patch!
Our pumpkin patch on the banks of the Colorado River will be open on weekends through November 15th, so get your tickets now!