Pumpkins are as iconic a symbol of Autumn as a fallen leaf. We buy them every year, carve them into scary faces and leave them outside on Halloween to greet trick-or-treaters as they come to our doors. And then we leave them, and leave them, and leave them until they are so rubbery and full of rot they are more puddle than pumpkin. What if you didn’t wait for your pumpkin to melt on your porch this year? Just because the candle is burned out, doesn’t mean it’s lost it’s glow. Let your jack-o-lantern shine as something else.
Here are some suggestions that are creative, sustainable, environmentally responsible uses for that grinning squash, it’s guts, and it’s future.
Though most of us only use them once a year as a decorative seasonal accent, it’s easy to forget that these orange growths are members of the squash family. Not only can you easily season and toast the seeds for a snack, but you can use the pulp to make a healthy vegetable broth or just a hearty soup. Puree the sinewy insides to make a creamy butter, or form it into a patty and baked it for a delicious veggie burger. You can even dehydrate or fry the outer skin to make pumpkin chips or fries. All this without mentioning how many delicious seasonal baked goods such as pumpkin bread, you can make by substituting pumpkin for other ingredients.
One of the easiest ways to reuse your pumpkin is just to turn it into something else! Magic! You can use the mini-pumpkins for candle-holders by hollowing out the center. Or core the middle of medium ones and use them as serving bowls for dip or side dishes. This can add that special accent to any Thanksgiving dinner or seasonal party.
My favorite reuse for discarded pumpkins is as a method of feeding the growth in your garden. You can even use your old pumpkin as a self-contained, compostable planter! Simply fill your old pumpkin up with soil leaving a little room for the seedlings, stick your sprouted plants or seeds in the soil, and plant the whole pumpkin in the ground. As the pumpkin breaks down, it will self-compost and enrich the soil around it both inside and out, feeding and nurturing your plant as time goes on. Or just cut it up and stir it into your own compost pile, yay composting!
It may sound strange, but you can actually use the pureed insides of your pumpkin to make a nourishing facial mask or skin treatment with a few household ingredients you may already have in your cabinets. Adding oatmeal or honey can have a rejuvenating effect while including sugar or blended almonds as exfoliants. of Or, if you want to optimize your recycling power, you can make this rejuvenating mask on Halloween and incorporate it into your costume. No one at the party will have any idea you’re exfoliating behind that orange glow.
No need to spring for that pricey organic birdseed, cut your old pumpkin up and leave it outdoors to feed the local wildlife. Pumpkins can be a treat to local birds, deer, squirrels or other herbivores and (fingers crossed) keep them away from your vegetable garden or fruit trees.
In the same way they can be used to attract local wildlife, if you live in a rural area close to local farms or equestrian centers, some of them may take your pumpkins as an alternative feed for horses or other livestock. Your pumpkin becomes a part of the life cycle.
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