Kids Safety 101
Mom and daughter enjoying pumpkins

What to Do with Those Leftover Halloween Pumpkins

Halloween has come and gone, and hopefully, you’ve found a healthy way to cope with all that candy. But what about the pumpkins? If you find yourself overburdened with autumnal gourds, don’t throw them in the trash without reading this first.

Although pumpkins are a focal point of Halloween decorations, let’s not forget that many of these gourds are edible. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the vast majority of pumpkins grown in this country are not eaten. That’s a real shame because throwing pumpkins into the trash once they’ve started to rot on your porch is wasteful and bad for the environment.

It might be too late for the jack-o-lanterns on your porch. But if you decorated the skin of whole pumpkins or simply set out cheerful orange gourds as part of a display, there’s good news. You have a good chance of being able to salvage something from them.

Pumpkin Seeds

The giant-sized pumpkins grown for carving aren’t the most flavorful, but their seeds are delicious when roasted. All you need to make this healthy snack are rinsed raw pumpkin seeds, some kind of fat like olive oil or butter, and the salty or sweet flavorings of your choice. Note that there’s a slight difference between pumpkin seeds straight from the gourd and pepitas. The smaller, green seeds we call pepitas are actually hulled, with the white part removed.

The sky’s the limit with flavors. You could do pumpkin spice pepitas with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and sugar. Alternately, chili powder makes for a delightfully spicy kick. No matter the flavor, be sure to add a pinch of salt. Toss the seeds with melted butter or oil along with the seasonings and/or sweeteners.

Roast the seeds on a lined sheet pan or rimmed baking tray for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. As long as you supervise at the oven, this is a really fun activity for kids. They can design their own recipes and learn about the issue of food waste, too.

Decorate, Cook, Compost

Instead of using large jack-o-lantern pumpkins for decor, why not pick up smaller pumpkins that are cultivated for flavor? I chose to group a couple of sugar pie pumpkins from the grocery store with potted mums this year on my porch. Thankfully, the squirrels left the pumpkins alone and they seem to be intact. No soft spots, discoloration, or other visible issues.

That means these little cuties are going to be sliced, roasted, and turned into pies and soup for Thanksgiving. Gourds are a miracle of nature that store valuable nutrients, including beta carotene, over the winter months. They’re meant to last.

Whatever’s leftover–the stem, the stringy guts, the tough outer layer–should go in the compost. Smash or cut up the pumpkin to help it break down faster. Alternately, many farm animals such as chickens and goats, love snacking on pumpkin. They should not be fed moldy jack-o-lanterns, of course, but it’s another way to make sure that every bit of your Halloween decorations gets put to use.


Erin Long