Halloween may be a few weeks away, but the pumpkins are already popping up on people’s doorsteps. So this is the perfect time to share ideas for this fun winter squash this season, allowing you a happy, healthy, and hopeful Halloween.
Food Waste-- A Tragedy of the Commons
Every year, we throw away approximately 1 billion pounds of this gorgeous gourd, and it’s not just a waste to the environment, it’s a waste of some DELICIOUS food!
Food waste attributes to climate change and carbon emissions, and pumpkins are one of the worst culprits. Yes, food decomposes, but food waste releases methane, making up 6-7% of the greenhouse gases. While other food wastes can be more problematic– there was an avocado pit found in a landfill that was thought to be 25 years old– this seasonal food waste is particularly bad because we throw away so many each year (again, a billion pounds!).
All the Fun of Halloween, Without the Waste
I’m not trying to be an old fuddy-duddy. I want us all to have a terrifically fun and memorable Halloween. Of course, this tradition is a huge part of the season.
But we can have our pumpkins, have our Halloween fun, and still promote a better impact on the environment. Here are some ideas to have your pumpkin, and help keep our landfills a little less orange.
1. Composting Pumpkins
This is a double win. If you have a garden, composting is super helpful. While most food waste in a landfill take months to fully decompose under all the trash, composting takes just a few weeks. It nourishes your soil, and if you love pumpkins, compost some the seeds. Next year you’ll have fun with all the plentiful bounty that will likely grow. Free pumpkins. What could be better than that?
2. Have Your Pumpkin and Eat it, Too
Carving your gorgeous gourd exposes the flesh to bacteria and starts the rotting process within days. When it rots, we have no choice but to throw it away (well, composted…see above). But if you don’t carve your pumpkin, you can enjoy it a lot longer– up to 12 weeks longer.
So how do you decorate if you aren’t carving your pumpkin? You can paint them– use non-toxic paint to decorate your pumpkins, or draw on them with markers. We can’t eat the rind (well, we DON’T, not 100% sure on the “can’t”), so cutting off the skin that we painted or decorated won’t affect your health if you plan to eat it.
Now that you aren’t carving your pumpkin, you can enjoy it as decoration during Halloween, but it’s after Halloween that the real party begins. You get to eat your pumpkin!
The easiest way to use your pumpkin is to puree it and use it just like canned pumpkin. You can even freese it, as it will stay for months in the freezer.
But how do you process your huge orange doorstop?
The best way is what ZooFit follower and friend Lora Hein reminded me- roasting in the oven.
Cut your the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds. Set your pumpkin on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Turn on your oven to 350 degrees and roast for 45 minutes. If you have a larger pumpkin, the time may take a bit longer. You want it to be very soft and basically just peels off the rind.
After roasting, you can transfer the pumpkin to a food processor or blender and blend until quite smooth. You may need to do this in batches. And if necessary, you can add a little bit of water (not too much) to make the puree smooth.
However, if you are a little short on time or like to cook green by using your oven as little as possible, you can process the pumpkin on your stove top. The biggest pain in this is cutting the rind before you cook it. Remove the seeds just as you would if roasting, but then cut the squash into smaller chunks and cut off the tough skin. You can save the rind in a container and use with other veggie scraps (such as onions, carrots, and potato skins) to make a veggie broth.
Once you have all flesh and no rind, cut into 1-inch pieces. If you have a steamer basket, and a small enough pumpkin, you can steam the chunks and pieces over medium high heat for 20-ish minutes. You can also boil the pumpkin in 2-3 cups of water for 20-ish minutes.
This method makes the pumpkin a bit more watery, but uses less cooking energy, and goes by a lot faster.
Another option is to place in a slow cooker and turn on low, similarly to if you were making applesauce. This method uses the least amount of cooking energy.
Once the pumpkin is soft, place in a blender or use a potato masher to puree.
Place in a container and either freeze or put in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Smoothies, Pumpkin Parfait, Pumpkin Bread....
What to do with that puree? Perhaps a better question is, what can’t you do with it? For now, let me leave you with three recipes that are great for breakfasts, snacks, or even a pumpkin-y dessert:
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup milk alternative
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding more milk as needed.
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (or dairy-free plain yogurt)
1/2 cup puree pumpkin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup granola
Mix yogurt, pumpkin, and cinnamon in a bowl. Divide yogurt between two bowls or containers. Top each with granola.
1/2 cup oats
1 cup milk alternative
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sweetener (honey, maple syrup, etc.)
1/4 cup walnuts
Pour oats into a mason jar and cover with milk. Stir in sweetener and spices. Place in fridge overnight. In the morning, layer the pumpkin and nuts on top. Sprinkle or drizzle a little more spices or sweetener to desired taste.
All Treats, No Tricks
‘Tis pumpkin season, so get your gourd on, and plan for ways to enjoy it a lot longer after our one spooky day!
Have a fun and festive fall season. Keep living green by eating clean, and have a healthy, happy, and hopeful Halloween.