Sure, you know the round, orange gourds are great for making jack-o’-lanterns, but what else can you do with pumpkins? As it turns out, there’s a lot!
But before we get to that, let’s talk when. Because pumpkins take 85 to 120 days to mature, May and June are considered the best time to start planting in order to have them ready by fall. You can even plant them as late as July, as the success of your pumpkin patch is largely dependent on your location and the weather.
When your pumpkins are finally ready for harvesting, it’s time to determine whether you’d like to sell them, make indoor or outdoor decorations, or even use them for cooking. If you’re not a harvester, consider visiting your local farm to purchase fresh pumpkins to achieve the same creative results.
In this blog post, Port Farms lists a variety of tips for ways you can use your pumpkins outside of creating the traditional—and still awesome—jack-o’-lanterns!
1. Roast the Seeds
When a pumpkin is ready to be harvested, the first step is to cut it open to remove the edible seeds. You can do so by using your hands, a spoon, or even an ice cream scoop. Once the seeds have been removed, separate them from the pulp, then wash and dry them (the drier, the better).
The seeds should then be seasoned using herbs and spices of your choosing. We recommend a touch of olive oil to help crisp the seeds, as well as salt, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper to taste.
After the seeds have been seasoned to your liking, put them in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees. The seeds should be tossed every five minutes to avoid burning either side. Once finished, set aside the seeds to cool, then enjoy!
The American Heart Association (AHA) has stated that eating pumpkin seeds or the seeds’ shells can:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity (fiber)
- Lower blood pressure and prevent migraines (magnesium)
- Improve heart and bone health (magnesium)
- Reduce inflammation (zinc)
- Promote better sleep (tryptophan)
However, be mindful of the amount of seeds you consume! Pumpkin seeds are high in calories and fiber, which can lead to feelings of discomfort. The recommended serving size is about one-quarter cup.
2. Decorate Your Home
There’s no denying that pumpkins make incredible decorations, but they’re not only just for a singular holiday such as Halloween. Along with jack-o’-lanterns, there are quite a few eye-catching objects you can craft out of pumpkins, such as:
- Bird Feeders
- Candle Holders
- Colorful Centerpieces
- Pumpkin keg
Keep in mind that if your pumpkins are whole, they will last longer. If they are cut into or gutted, they will be harder to preserve and have a shorter shelf life. Steve Reiners, a horticulturist at Cornell University, has said that “if the pumpkin was healthy when picked and diseases were controlled in the field, the pumpkin can last 8 to 12 weeks.”
3. Create Food and Drink
According to Hubbub, a UK-based organization advocating for greener living, over 18,000 metric tons of pumpkins are thrown away every year, equivalent to 39,683,207 pounds or 360 million portions of pumpkin pie. While you can certainly buy canned pumpkins in a grocery store, nothing beats fresh produce, so do not throw your pumpkin away after the holiday festivities have come to a close! Instead, use a whole pumpkin, or what’s left of your pumpkin after carving, to make fresh seasonal food and drink, such as:
Seed and Nut Brittle
Composting is the process of recycling organic material and allowing it to decompose naturally. Once the pumpkin has decomposed, you can use the material to enrich your planting soil with nutrients. To compost pumpkins:
- Remove the seeds, as well as any other objects you may have inside
- Find a designated place for your compost pile (in the shade is best)
- Break the pumpkin into smaller pieces and spread it around the pile
- Lightly cover the pumpkin with other compostable materials
- Let nature do the rest
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that the benefits of composting are:
- Reduction of methane emissions
- Reduction of the need for chemical fertilizers
- Higher yields of agricultural crops.
- Reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts
- Remediation of soils contaminated by hazardous waste
- Cost savings over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies
- Enhanced water retention in soil
- Carbon sequestration
If you find that the quality of your pumpkin isn’t to your liking but don’t want to contribute to the growing number of food waste, consider composting your pumpkin!
Growing with Port Farms
At Port Farms, we understand the importance of making the most of the produce you grow. Whether that means composting, making crafts, or creating the next seasonal food item, there are a myriad of actions you can take to make sure that your goods don’t go to waste. For more information on growing or purchasing fresh produce, check out 5 Ways to Support Small Farms or visit our website.