Once Halloween has come and gone, don’t even think about tossing your Jack o’lantern to the curb. Save it for some functional uses around your garden and tasty treats you can concoct in the kitchen.
A Few Tips Before Cooking
If you plan on using the innards of your pumpkin, be sure to skip out on using a traditional tea light to illuminate it for your Jack o’lantern. Instead, opt for a pumpkin light that is battery-operated or even a flashlight in order to avoid a burnt inner shell. Also remember to bring the pumpkin inside once it has fulfilled its spooky duties. Don’t leave it out overnight lest it become a midnight snack for the critters around your neighbourhood. Lastly, keep carving time as close to Halloween as possible to ensure the freshest pumpkin and to avoid any rotting that might occur over a longer length of time.
Roasting pumpkin seeds is probably the most common use for your leftover pumpkin after Halloween. Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein and zinc and are purported to assist in lowering cholesterol levels. They’re great to serve on top of salads, mixed in with your granola, or as an on-the-go snack for busy mornings. Start by scraping the seeds out of the pumpkin with a spoon or even your hands—if you’re up for getting a bit messy. Spread the seeds on a plastic bag or baking sheet and leave them overnight so they have a chance to dry out; this also makes separating them from the pith (the stringy material) a lot easier once they’ve dried. Once the seeds are dry, lay them flat on a cookie sheet and toss them in a 170°F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until a slight golden colour. Roasting them low and slow will ensure all the healthy oils will remain in the seeds and not be released with the high heat. If you want to be adventurous, add different spices or seasoning to mix up the plain flavour of the seeds.
Nothing soothes better on a cold day than a warm bowl of soup, especially after a long night of trick-or-treating. Take the pumpkin and cut into cubes or desired shape—you can even leave it in half depending on the amount of time you have for cooking. Boiling and steaming are two cooking methods but roasting your pumpkin in the oven will often lead to the best results and give it a smokier, richer flavour. Once your pumpkin is roasted, place it in the food processor with 3-4 carrots; they help to cut the dense pumpkin texture and help maximize flavour. You might have to modify the amount of carrots to the ratio of pumpkin. Start by sautéing onions in a saucepan with a little butter until they’re caramelized and add in the processed pumpkin and carrot mixture. Add in some heavy cream (use 10% if you’re watching your calories) and bring it to a simmer. Once the soup has heated through, you can put it through the food processor to gain your desired consistency or leave it with a bit more texture. Spice the soup to taste with salt and pepper and add a more seasonal feel by sprinkling in cumin or nutmeg. This soup is perfect for freezing or served hot off the stove!
Preserving the innards of your leftover pumpkin saves you a trip to the store every time you need to buy canned pumpkin, not to mention it’s fresh. If you’re making pies, cupcakes, scones, or loaves, especially during the fall months, having preserved pumpkin will make things easier. Cook your pumpkin with your method of choice (boiling, roasting, or steaming) until it’s tender enough to mash. Leaving the pumpkin unseasoned will allow you to use the pumpkin for both savoury and sweet dishes. Once the pumpkin is cooled, put it in a food processor or blender to ensure a silky texture (if you’re going to be baking with this filling, purée it as smooth as possible). Once the pumpkin is puréed, put it into a container that is freezer friendly and it can remain in the freezer up to six months.
When October hits, the pumpkin desserts start to become more popular, especially during Thanksgiving and throughout the Fall. Canadians aren’t the only people who love them a good pumpkin dessert and since they’re available all year round, the Thai people know how to make a scrumptious concoction. Mixing together the flavours of pumpkin and coconut, this not-so-traditional dessert is the perfect ending to your Halloween pumpkin. Known as a Gang Baud (simply meaning “cooked in coconut milk with sugar”) this Thai dessert is sweet and will keep you warm on a Fall day. Start by slicing your pumpkin into thin strips about 1-2 inches in thickness. Bring ½ cup of coconut milk and 1 cup of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt and a few teaspoons of sugar—until your desired sweetness is achieved. If your coconut milk is too thick, you can always add more water to thin it out and make it more soup-like in consistency. Once the pumpkin and coconut milk mixture has come to a boil, let it simmer until the pumpkin is tender and serve it to your guests warm.
Possibly one of the most original uses for pumpkin innards is pet food. Cats and dogs with digestive problems can be fed pumpkin to clear their intestinal track and help keep them regular. Roast or boil the pumpkin until it is tender enough to mash and keep it unseasoned; your dog or cat doesn’t need the extra salt and won’t miss out on the flavour. Once the pumpkin is tender, run it through the food processor or mash it by hand to make a smooth consistency. You might need to mix it in with existing food or some animals will eat it on their own, no disguise necessary. Refrigerate or freeze the leftover and serve it to your furry friend with their daily meals. Many farms and zoos feed their animals pumpkin on a regular basis so if you find yourself with a number of Jack o’lanterns, bring them to your local farm.
If you’ve left your carved pumpkin out a tad longer than it should have been it’s probably best to use it for compost in your garden. Composting the leftover pumpkin is a great way to provide nutrients for your soil and keep things healthy. There are two options when it comes to compost. First, you can put the pumpkin in with your existing compost and let it enrich your soil as it breaks down or you can bury the pumpkin directly into your garden and it will give off its nutrients from its new home in the ground. The pumpkin will release good toxins that will help your plants and soil thrive and you won’t need to worry about a new pumpkin sprouting next year since the seeds have already been taken out. If you leave the seeds in the pumpkin, you might have a patch the following year just in time for Halloween!