Every October and November thousands of pumpkins and their respective parts are sent to landfills across the United States. While for many, jack-o-lantern byproducts and the rotting shells themselves are disposed of in the household garbage, it does not have to be this way at all. Turning this favorite family tradition into a zero waste endeavor can be easy and fun for everyone involved.
Here are 6 helpful tips:
- Grow Yourself or Buy Local: Instead of purchasing your pumpkin at a national grocery or hardware store, search for local farms, pumpkin patches, farmer's markets, or stands that you could support instead. If you are lucky enough to have grown pumpkins yourself, consider sharing your harvest with neighbors or friends.
- Utilize the Seeds: Not only are pumpkin seeds rich in antioxidants, magnesium, iron, and zinc, they also make for a tasty snack. To separate pumpkin seeds from stringy guts while carving, scoop out seeds into a large bowl of water. The seeds will float to the top and guts will sink, especially if given a little massage to separate the components. Skim off the top of the bowl and let them air dry. Toss with olive oil and your favorite spice blend, and roast at 325 F in a single layer for 20-30 minutes, or until toasted and golden. Some of our favorite spices to play around with are smoked paprika, garlic powder, chili or chipotle powder, and salt. For more in depth instructions check out this blog.
- Utilize the Flesh: Not only does scraping most of the flesh out of the jack-o-lantern create a thinner wall and allow you to carve more easily, it provides ample flesh - the key ingredient in Fall staple recipes such as pumpkin pie. Pumpkin flesh can be steamed or roasted and then pureed with a potato masher or blender, and substituted for canned pumpkin puree in any recipe. It's also tasty on its own! If you have too much puree or lack the time to dive into soup or dessert making, the puree can be frozen for future use. As the days grow shorter, we're excited to try this Roasted Pumpkin Soup recipe!
- Utilize the Guts: The guts are often the overlooked part of the pumpkin. However, we have two ideas for you to try! Once guts are separated from the seeds, puree them using a blender or food processor. They can then be used to make dog treats (sub for canned pumpkin puree) for our favorite four legged friends. We also found a Pumpkin Gut Bread recipe that we are excited to try!
- Collect Seeds for Next Year: The seeds from any pumpkin, gourd, or squash can be air dried and saved in a paper bag to plant next year. Not only does this save money, but it can be a fun activity for the whole family.
- Compost the remains: Rotting jack-o-lanterns and decorative gourds and pumpkins make great for compost. If using a backyard compost be cognizant of adding any seeds - they may turn into pumpkin seedlings next spring. Once you add your pumpkins to your pile make sure to cover them with browns - fallen leaves, straw, wood chips, etc to balance the C:N ratio and keep out animals. If sending your pumpkins to a commercial composter, seeds are not a concern. In the Wenatchee Valley, Winton MFG welcomes any and all pumpkins this Fall!