Wait! Before tossing out your Jack-O-Lantern to carve room for Christmas, consider giving it a second life. Pumpkins, one of the oldest known crops in the western hemisphere, have been cultivated for thousands of years. Today, the US alone produces nearly 2 billion pounds of pumpkins a year. Unfortunately, most end up in a landfill after the holidays. Now that’s scary! Especially when there are multiple ways to make wonderful use of our beloved Cucurbita.
Here are a few of our favorites…
Pumpkins are a fruit and, like all fruit, packed with nutrients. If your uncarved pumpkin is still firm and ripe, consider eating it. One half cup of pumpkin provides all the vitamin A required in a day and one cup has more potassium than a banana. It’s also a fantastic source of fiber.
Skip the can and puree your own pumpkin. Then try one of these amazing recipes from the Food Network.
Roast the seeds
Pumpkin seeds are especially delicious roasted, not to mention nutritious and FUN to eat. After washing and drying, toss in olive oil, add some salt and your favorite seasoning, spread on a baking sheet, and bake at 300°F for 30–40 minutes (or until brown and crunchy). Check out some more easy recipes here.
We’re not the only ones who love pumpkin. Some municipal zoos collect uncarved pumpkins for elephants and other animals. Check with the Houston Zoo to see if they’re accepting donations. Pig farms often accept both carved and uncarved pumpkins, like this farm in Liberty County.
Before your pumpkin transforms into a slimy monster, consider one of these great DIY projects.
Decorate for Thanksgiving
Uncarved pumpkins have a surprising shelf life. They should keep until Thanksgiving on a shady porch.
Feed some butterflies
Share pumpkin with butterflies by placing pieces on a shallow dish. Learn how to make a feeder for fruit-loving butterflies here.
Make a bird feeder
Learn how by watching this quick video from the National Audubon Society.
When sent to the landfill pumpkins add to the 30.3 million tons of annual food waste in the US. Food waste produces methane gas, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Compost your pumpkin instead to capture its nutrients and enrich your potted plants or raised garden beds.
If you have a backyard compost bin, cut the pumpkin into small pieces and add to the bin with other green material. If you don’t have a bin, simply shovel out a shallow depression in the ground, lay the pumpkin pieces in and cover with leaves. Nature will do the rest of the work and in a few weeks you’ll have compost that can either be left in place or scooped out and applied to your garden or lawn.
Learn all about backyard composting on Saturday, November 6, 2021, by attending The Woodlands Township’s free backyard composting class at 8203 Millennium Forest Dr., from 10 am to 11:00 am. High quality C.E. Shepherd compost bins will be for sale for $50 each.