4 ways to make the most out of your pumpkin this season
They’re hard, wonky looking and often suffer from an acute case of the warts. Pumpkins are the fruit of October and epitomize the Halloween season. Here are four ways to get the most use out of your pumpkin.
1. Carving a Jack-O’-Lantern
Jack-o’-lanterns are the most recognizable use for pumpkins. Local stores typically have all types of pumpkins available, differing in sizes and colors. Before choosing a pumpkin, be mindful of the design you want to fit onto the pumpkin.
First, prepare a large surface with a mat or towel to minimize the mess. Then, equip yourself with a knife, a large spoon and a container for pumpkin flesh. A serrated knife with teeth will work best for cutting through thick pumpkin skin, while a paring knife works best for the smaller details of your design.
Begin by cutting out a lid from the top of your pumpkin, and set it aside for later. Dig out the pumpkin flesh and seeds with a large spoon, and if you are interested in eating the seeds, save them in a container. Now for the fun part- carve out your design: a face, an animal, a monster or anything else that catches your fancy. If cutting straight lines is challenging, printing out a design and attaching it to the pumpkin with tape can help.
2. Compostable Plant Pot
Instead of a jack-o’-lantern, turn a pumpkin into a compostable pumpkin planter. Save an extra step in the transplanting process by using a pumpkin planter as a naturally decomposing pot.
Just like carving a jack-o’-lantern, cut an opening at the top of the pumpkin with a serrated knife. Feel free to decorate the plant pot by carving your own patterns on the surface of the pumpkin pot. After hollowing out the pumpkin with a spoon, just like a regular transplant, take a plant from its nursery pot and replant it with soil in the pumpkin.
The plant should grow beautifully if loved and cared for. As the pumpkin ages, an eventual transplant of the whole pumpkin into the ground will take place, decomposing and fertilizing the area.
3. Prepare Mashed Pumpkin Puree
It’s a fact of life that some pumpkins just aren’t made for pie. The carving of the pumpkin contains flesh that is very fibrous and may not produce the best tasting pie. You can use puree in dishes like pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup.
To prep, cut your pumpkin in half and take out stringy fibers and seeds. One and a half pounds of raw pumpkin will yield two cups of pumpkin puree. And again, if you want to eat the seeds, save them for roasting later.
Cut the cleaned pumpkin into chunks and put them into a saucepan with one inch of boiling water. Turn the heat to low and throw on a cover to simmer for half an hour. Once the pumpkin is tender, drain the water and remove the peel. Use a potato masher to smash the pumpkins into a puree. The fresh pumpkin will last three days in the refrigerator, or months frozen.
4. Roasting Seeds
By virtue of carving, cooking or smashing pumpkins, you’ll eventually be left with a bunch of little pumpkin seeds. In their final, toasted form, pumpkin seeds are a delicious, high protein and high fiber snack.
With your leftover pumpkin guts, separate the seeds from the stringy flesh. Run water over the seeds in a strainer or colander to make this process easier. Pat the seeds dry to ensure a crispy crunch.
Grab two or three tablespoons of a favorite cooking oil or butter, and add any additional spices your taste buds may desire. Classic salt and pepper works well, too. Mix and spread over a baking sheet, and make sure to line the baking sheet with aluminum foil to help with cleanup.
In a single layer, spread the clean and dried pumpkin seeds on the baking sheet. Throw it in the oven at 200°F for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 or so minutes. When the timer ends, turn up the heat to 325°F for five minutes to finish the seeds with a nice crisp.