When Halloween is over and you have a porch full of jack-o’-lantern leftovers just withering away, have you ever wondered what you could do with the pumpkin and its remains besides throwing them in the trash?
First, let’s discuss the pumpkin. Chances are that you bought or grew a large pumpkin to carve and decorate as a jack-o’-lantern. These pumpkins are a different variety than the type we normally use for pie. Pie pumpkins, sometimes called sugar pumpkins, are generally a smaller variety with dense and sweet flesh. They have fewer seeds and tend to be less stringy. Pumpkins made for jack-o’-lanterns, on the other hand, are larger pumpkins that have a thinner wall of flesh under the skin. They tend to be more stringy, have more seeds and contain more water than pie pumpkins. That said, you can still eat jack-o’-lantern pumpkins, though.
Here’s a list of uses for your jack-o’-lantern pumpkin after Halloween.
1. Save the Seeds for Eating
Once you have a hole cut in the top of your pumpkin, scoop the seeds into a bowl. There’s no need to put them right in the trash. When you have scooped out all the seeds, fill the bowl with water and use your hands to separate the seeds from the stringy flesh. Place the seeds in a colander and spray or rinse them in water, using your hands as needed to remove any additional stringy flesh, until they are cleaned. Set them aside to dry. You can roast them in all sorts of way. My very favorite way to eat saved pumpkin seeds is to make honey roasted pumpkin seeds. They’re easy, healthy, full of fiber and excellent on salads!
2. Save the Seeds for Planting
Treat the seeds the same way you did to prepare them for eating except don’t cook them. Once the seeds have been washed, lay them on a towel to dry. Pick out a nice selection of the largest blemish-free seeds. Let the seeds air-dry completely and then store them in a brown paper bag. After a month take a look at your seeds. This will have given your seeds time to fully dry. Discard any seeds that show signs of rot or mold. Label your seeds and store them in a dark, cool place until you are ready to plant them in the spring.
3. Cook With the Extra Jack-O’-Lantern Flesh
While you are carving your jack-o’-lantern you might end up with some extra flesh. Once the slimy parts and seeds have been removed, you might want to remove some of the extra flesh to make carving easier. I like to use a sturdy spoon or even an ice-cream scooper to scrape some of it away. Keep the flesh in a bowl and rinse off any extra seeds or stringy parts. You can use the flesh by microwaving it, boiling it or roasting it until it is fork tender. Turn the cooked pumpkin flesh into pumpkin purée by running it through a food mill, blender or food processor, and then use it in your favorite pumpkin recipes.
Avoid using the flesh of a pumpkin that’s been sitting on your porch and is starting to turn black. This could be harmful to your health.
4. Pickle the Rind
Have you ever tried pickled pumpkin rind? Any pickle lover will tell you it is delicious. You can pickle the rind of a very recently carved pumpkin—one that shows no signs of rot or mold—or you can save the pieces that you carved, like the smile, eye and nose of your jack-o’-lantern that you no longer need.
To pickle the rind, use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer orange skin of the pumpkin. Cut the rind—this will be an inch-thick section right under the skin—into 2-inch squares. For each pound of pumpkin, use 2½ cup of sugar, 2 cups white vinegar and a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger. A cinnamon stick is good, too. Put the sugar, vinegar and spices in large pot, bring to a boil, add the pumpkin, and cook until the pumpkin is tender. Chill overnight before serving.
5. Compost It
Pumpkin is such a great addition to your compost pile. If you’re using a heap method to compost, just toss your pumpkins on the pile. If you are using a more delicate method, you might want to cut your old jack-o’-lanterns into smaller pieces before adding them to your pile.
6. Bury Your Jack-O’-Lantern Leftovers
If composting isn’t your thing but you have a garden, dig a hole, toss them in, and let nature take over. By simply burying your leftover jack-o’-lanterns you will easily amend your soil. When it comes time to till the soil in the spring, you won’t find many jack-o’-lantern leftovers. You may find a few volunteer plants later in the season, though, if you had any seeds left in the pumpkin!
7. Feed Your Livestock, Chickens or Worms
Livestock love pumpkins! So do chickens and worm farms. Did you know that pumpkins can be used as a natural dewormer? Here’s what Lisa Steele from Fresh Eggs Daily has to say about that:
”The pumpkin seeds (as well as the seeds of other members of the cucurbitaceae family, such as winter, summer, zucchini and crookneck squash, gourds, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and watermelon) are coated with a substance called cucurbitacin that paralyzes the worms. The larger fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of cucurbitacin, while the smaller cucumber contains far less.”
8. Turn It Into a Planter
Keep your jack-o’-lantern around longer by turning it into a planter. After you’ve carved your pumpkin, dip it in a large bucket of a vinegar solution: one part vinegar to four parts water. This will help slow the decay process. After Halloween put a layer of burlap or landscape cloth inside the jack-o’-lantern where you’ve carved the face—this will help to keep the soil from falling out. Fill the pumpkin with soil and add a fall plant. Mums are inexpensive this time of year and make a great choice. Plant the mum, or plant of your choice, and water well. Place the planted jack-o’-lantern on your porch with the carved part facing the house so you don’t see it as well.
9. Make a Pumpkin Bird Feeder
This could be a really fun craft project with your kids or grandkids! You can simple fill up your old jack-o’-lantern with a layer of bird feed and put it somewhere you’ll be able to watch the birds come and go. You can get more creative by hanging the pumpkin. You can also carve out a large section of the back of the pumpkin so that you can see more of what the birds are doing inside. The birds might eat a bit of the pumpkin, as well as the seeds.
Don’t stop there! There’s all kind of ways you can use your pumpkin after Halloween. Let this list be your springboard, the possibilities are endless.