Halloween isn’t complete without the perfect pumpkin! Around the world, many families continue the tradition of picking an orange squash, carving a face into them, and then, unfortunately, throwing them out. A 2018 study in the UK found that 8 million pumpkins go to landfills after Halloween. In the US, 1.3 billion pounds are thrown away, and most of the 80,000 metric tons of pumpkins grown in Canada are also wasted. How’s that for spooky? Here’s our list of 5 cool ways to put your pumpkin to good use after the trick or treaters are gone!
Some pumpkins are grown and sold for ornamental use only, but a vast majority are edible. They are a great source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that reduces the risk of developing cancer, asthma, and heart disease. Boost your immunity, fiber, and vitamin A intake by adding pumpkin to your diet. Think pumpkin lasagna and gnocchi, pumpkin risotto, roasted pumpkin wedges or seeds, and homemade pumpkin purees or vegetable stocks, which freeze well and can be used year-round. The possibilities are endless. Bon appetit!
Not the type of person who likes to cook? Donate your pumpkin to a good cause. There are plenty of initiatives that help the food insecure by making nutritious meals with leftover squash. In Washington, DC, for example, an organization called the Compost Cab collects thousands of pounds of pumpkin every year and gives it to those in need. Ask your local soup kitchen if it can put the gourd to good use. Many farms, such as Hooves & Feathers in Knoxville, TN or the Higher Ground Animal Sanctuary in Spokane, WA also take donations. It turns out pumpkins are a tasty snack adored by many farm animals!
There are many ways to get creative with leftover pumpkin. A quick online search will show you how to boost your outdoor decor game this fall. Some of the neater ideas include turning your carved pumpkin into an extra special treat for the birds in your backyard. Cut the pumpkin in half, clean it out, stick a skewer or chopstick into it for the birds to sit on, and fill it with birdseed. Or, transform your pumpkin into a unique planter. Cut the top off, scoop out the seeds and the guts, and place a beautiful bunch of flowers inside. Place the planter somewhere in the garden so the soil can benefit as it decomposes!
Plan a Patch
It’s satisfying to grow your jack-o’-lanterns at home! Saving seeds from pumpkins and growing them in the garden next season is good fun and also easier on the wallet come Halloween. We take for granted that seeds will always be available in little packets at the store. We can all take personal responsibility for preserving food and flower crops. Growers can choose the healthiest, most vigorous pumpkin plants to save seeds from, and each year, the vegetables become better with higher yields and fewer problems. Be sure to have a designated pumpkin patch; this variety of squash takes over the plot in no time at all.
Smash and Compost
At the very least, save your leftover pumpkin from the landfill and add it to the compost. Much like other food waste that ends up in the trash, discarded jack-o’-lanterns slowly decompose and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Pumpkins are nutrient-rich and give a lot back to the soil when composted properly. Remove any candles or other decorative features and scoop out all of the seeds before adding it to the pile. You can even have some fun and smash it to pieces from high spaces or with a mallet before you do! Many communities hold pumpkin ‘smash’ events after Halloween; not only fun to watch but a great way to encourage our neighbors to dispose of their pumpkins responsibly.