In just a matter of time Halloween will be behind us and we will move on to Thanksgiving.
If your yard is like mine, orange pops of color provided by this year's pumpkins still litter the landscape! So the question is this: What can be done with all those carved-up jack-o-lanterns when Halloween bids us farewell?
Pumpkins can do so much more than just brighten up the fall landscape. To throw them away without trying some of these repurposing tips would be downright haunting! So when the trick or treaters have retired for the year and October bids us farewell, breathe new life into your pumpkins with one of these savvy tricks!
Note: Once a pumpkin has been carved and sitting out for more than 24 hours, it could be unsafe to eat. But there are still so many uses. Read on!
Whip up Pumpkin Purée
Pumpkin purée is the number one use for the fleshy insides of the pumpkin, and it's super easy to make. Start by cutting the pumpkin down the middle. Scoop out the seeds and guts, and set them aside for later. Place the pumpkin cut-side down in a baking dish with about a cup of water and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 90 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Then, simply scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor. Use the purée in any favorite pumpkin recipe, from pies to pancakes! Any extra can be stored in the freezer for several months, which means you can ditch all that canned pumpkin when Thanksgiving comes around.
Make a Pumpkin Planter
Head down to the local nursery, pick up some mums, and plant the flowers in the pumpkin! It will be a festive decoration for a few days, and then you can plant the whole thing right in the backyard. It is a win-win: The pumpkin will naturally compost and provide fertilizer for your plant. All you do is pack potting soil into the carved pumpkin until it is about one-third full. Place the plant into the pumpkin and fill it out with more potting soil.
Stew up Stock
The guts, the stringy pieces that surround the seeds of the pumpkin, can be one of the most difficult parts to use. Use these icky innards to make some pumpkin stock. Separate the seeds from the guts, place the guts in a pot filled with water and boil. Consider adding other unwanted vegetable pieces, such as celery tips or carrot tops, to add more flavor. Boil for 30 minutes, or until the water begins to change color. Then strain the stock. It’s perfect for adding flavor to soups or casseroles, and you can freeze any extra for later use.
Have a Pumpkin Spa Day
Pumpkins are rich in zinc and vitamins A, C and E, making pumpkin purée healthy both internally and externally. It can be eaten or applied to skin. One of the prettiest uses for a pumpkin is a nutrient-rich face mask: Start with about five teaspoons of pumpkin purée, add three teaspoons of brown sugar (which exfoliates your skin) and add a tiny splash of milk. Mix it all together, then apply to your face in circular motions, avoiding the eye area. Relax for up to 20 minutes and allow all that pumpkin goodness to seep into your skin.
Snack on Seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds are a tasty fall favorite. Separate them from the guts, rinse thoroughly, place them in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, and stir them around to coat with oil. From here, add a little salt for classic roasted pumpkin seeds, or add some brown sugar and cinnamon for a sweeter treat. These make a tasty, crunchy outer layer for candied apples, go great in brownies and add a little extra crunch to a salad.
Feed the Wildlife
Old jack-o-lanterns are perfect food for deer and seeds make yummy treats for birds. Cut a pumpkin into fourths and place the pieces in the yard, far away from the house. Soon you'll notice critters having a tasty afternoon snack. Place unwanted pumpkin seeds in a bird feeder or another container and enjoy some bird-watching. Freeze pumpkin puree into small cubes and give them to your dogs! They will love the sweet and savory taste, and the vitamins are great for them!
Cook up a Sweet Treat
Pumpkin candy is a Mexican tradition. When you discover how tasty it is, it will become one of yours too. Start with a whole pumpkin. Cut it in half, remove the guts and seeds, cut into smaller chunks and carefully remove the skin with a sharp vegetable peeler. Next, cut the pumpkin into bite-sized pieces and place them into a saucepan. Add just enough water to cover them, cover the pot and bring to a boil. After the pumpkin begins to soften, stir in one cup of brown sugar and desired spices. I suggest a little cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Cover with lid and continue to boil until the sugar forms a syrup. Allow the candies to sit in the syrup overnight to soak in the sugary flavor, then place on a wire rack to dry. Sprinkle with additional sugar if desired.
Blend up a Pumpkin Shake
Turn that pumpkin purée into a tasty milkshake. Combine two scoops of vanilla ice cream, a half-cup of milk, three tablespoons of pumpkin purée and a teaspoon of cinnamon in a blender. It tastes just much like pumpkin pie in a glass!
Create Pumpkin Serving Bowls
Instead of hitting the trash can, turn those pumpkin shells into festive serving bowls! Simply place your hollowed-out pumpkin on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Brush the insides and the tops with a little vegetable oil, and season as desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, and these babies are ready to serve favorite soups or dips!
Make Pumpkin Butter
Pumpkin butter is one of the easiest treats to make. Simply place two cups of pumpkin purée into a saucepan with a cup of brown sugar and a cup of water or apple cider. From there add whatever spices you choose. I suggest familiar pumpkin pie spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, along with a pinch of salt. Stir all the ingredients together and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 25 minutes. Once the pumpkin butter has cooled, store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator, and use it for breakfast on toast or biscuits. It makes a great topping for pancakes and oatmeal, too.