After Halloween is over, you might be left with a sad, deflated jack o’lantern whose glory days have passed. Don’t throw your old Jack-o-Lantern in your trash can. In Teton County, Idaho, it will be destined for the Mud Lake landfill, 90 miles away, where it can’t properly decompose and releases methane gas as a result. There are plenty of better disposal options available locally.
If you have a backyard compost, that pumpkin will be rich garden soil by the time spring arrives. Smash it into smaller pieces for faster decomposition. If you don’t have a compost, but have a garden or landscape plants, you can actually recapture the nutrients of the pumpkin by burying the chunks in shallow (5-6 in) holes where the worms and soil microorganisms can break them down for you. This is sometimes called “trench composting” and anyone can do it.
Another great option is to find a local farmer or anyone with backyard livestock. See if they’d like your old jack o’lantern to feed their animals. Goats, pigs, and chickens are particularly fond of discarded pumpkins. If you don’t know any farmers, try posting on one of the Facebook groups (like Teton Valley Free Swap Site, Community Pages of Teton Valley, or the various garage sale pages.) Next year TVCR hopes to coordinate a pumpkin round up to help these retired jack o’lanterns go out in style and recycle the nutrients locally.
Another fun option to dispose of your old pumpkin is the Great Pumpkin Smash event at the Rodeo Grounds in Jackson on Saturday, November 3. Jackson Hole Fire/EMS will be dropping pumpkins from the extended ladder of one of their fire engines (weather dependent) at 1pm and on the hour until 4pm – SPLAT! These pumpkins will be composted along with yard waste by Teton County’s composting contractor Terra Firma Organics.
If you decorated your pumpkin without carving it, here are a few great recipe ideas to utilize every ounce of that delicious pumpkin. (Pumpkins that have been carved and out for more than 48 hours aren’t recommended for human consumption.)
1. Whip up some pumpkin purée
Pumpkin purée is a great use for the fleshy insides of your pumpkin, and it’s very easy to make. Start by cutting your pumpkin down the middle. Scoop out the seeds and guts, and set them aside for other recipes.
Place your pumpkin cut-side down in a baking dish with about a cup of water, and bake for about 90 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Then, simply scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor. Once you’ve made your pumpkin purée, it’s ready for use in all your favorite pumpkin recipes, from pies to pancakes. You can store extra pumpkin puree in the freezer for several months, or even better, use it for Thanksgiving cooking.
2. Use those guts
The guts are the stringy pieces that surround the seeds of your pumpkin, and they can be one of the most difficult parts to use. We suggest using these icky innards to make some pumpkin stock.
Separate the seeds from the guts, and set them aside to roast. Place your guts in a pot filled with water and boil. You can add other leftover vegetable pieces, such as celery tips, carrot tops, or herbs to add more flavor. Boil for about 30 minutes, or until the water begins to change color. Strain your stock, reserving the broth and put the solids into the compost.
Pumpkin stock is a great addition to flavor soups or casseroles. You can freeze any extra for later use.
3. Roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Yum!
Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious and easy to make. After you’ve separated the seeds from the guts and rinsed them thoroughly, place them in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Stir them around to coat them with oil. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.
From here, you can do almost anything with your pumpkin seeds. Add a little salt for classic roasted pumpkin seeds, or add some brown sugar and cinnamon for a sweeter treat. Roasted pumpkin seeds also make a tasty and crunchy outer layer for your candied apples, and they go great in brownies and make delicious garnishes for salads.
4. Make Pumpkin Candy
Pumpkin candy is a Mexican tradition, but when you discover just how tasty they are, you’ll likely make it one of yours, too.
Start with a whole pumpkin, and cut it in half. After you’ve removed the guts and seeds, cut the pumpkin into smaller chunks, and carefully remove the skin with a sharp vegetable peeler. Cut your pumpkin into bite-sized pieces, and place the pieces into a saucepan with just enough water to cover them. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.
After the pumpkin begins to soften, stir in one cup of brown sugar and a little cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Cover with lid and continue to boil until the sugar forms a syrup.
Allow the candies to sit in the syrup overnight to soak in the sugary flavor, and then place on a wire rack to dry. Sprinkle with additional sugar if desired.
5. Mix up a pumpkin cocktail or milkshake
Thanks to the ever-widening selection of flavored vodkas on the market, you can make a tasty cocktail out of almost anything – even your Halloween pumpkin. For a tasty cocktail, fill a shaker with ice, and add a tablespoon of pumpkin purée and two ounces of the flavored vodka of your choice. We suggest vanilla, cinnamon or ginger. Add a splash of lime juice and a tiny squeeze of honey. Shake and strain into a glass over fresh ice.
While you enjoy your grown-up dessert drink, you can use some of that pumpkin purée in a tasty milkshake for the kids. Combine two scoops of vanilla ice cream, a half-cup of milk, three tablespoons of pumpkin purée and a teaspoon of cinnamon in a blender. It tastes so much like pumpkin pie in a glass that you may even steal a little for yourself.
6. Pumpkin butter for breakfast
Fruit butters are delicious additions to a fall breakfast, and pumpkin butter is one of the easiest to make. Simply place two cups of your pumpkin purée into a saucepan with a cup of brown sugar and a cup of water or apple cider. From there you can add whatever spices you choose. We suggest familiar pumpkin pie spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger, and a pinch of salt.
Stir all the ingredients together, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 25 minutes. Once your pumpkin butter has cooled, store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator, and use it for breakfast on toast, biscuits, pancakes or oatmeal.
7. And lastly, pumpkin beauty products…
Pumpkins are rich in zinc and vitamins A, C and E, which makes pumpkin purée healthy for your body if you eat it and healthy to apply to the skin. Here’s a recipe for a DIY face mask.
Take five teaspoons of pumpkin purée, add three teaspoons of brown sugar – which will naturally exfoliate your skin – and a tiny splash of milk. Mix it all together, and apply to your face in circular motions, avoiding the eye area. Relax for up to 20 minutes and allow all that pumpkin goodness to seep into your skin before you wash your face clean.