Halloween is coming up and the pumpkins are everywhere. At the farms, at the grocery stores, maybe even in your neighbour’s garden. But after you harvest or buy a pumpkin, carve it and use it for decoration for trick-or-treaters, what do you do with the pumpkin carcass?
Daniel Garfinkel, program manager at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Richmond Farm School, says we shouldn’t dump the pumpkins in our local forests.
“A lot of those pumpkins that are grown in the larger scale commodity market are not organic, so they’re really heavily induced with pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. So now you’re bringing that non-native product into our native forests with a lot of different biodiversity,” he says.
“I think bringing that type of non-organic material can be quite risky for the animals there,” Garfinkel adds. “It’s really not responsible.”
He says larger farms grow acres of pumpkins because they’re relatively cheap to grow.
“You can grow them in [large] quantities, and you don’t have to take care of the mush. I think a farmer in the larger scales in the commodity market would rather have too many than not enough,” he says. Garfinkel says he’s mostly seen larger farms leave leftover pumpkins to decompose in the fields.
KPU’s farm schools only grow organic produce. The pumpkins that aren’t bought at their farms, are leftover from the farm market, or are no good, are put into the compost bin.
“Inevitably, when you grow lots of pumpkins, there are some that are leftover,” Garfinkel says.
While composting at home is the way to go, Garfinkel says it’s great to utilize every bit of the pumpkin that’s not “gross and disgusting.”
“I think even the carving pumpkins can still be eaten. Carve the pumpkin as close to Halloween as possible, so they don’t get mushy and nasty. Don’t use a candle, maybe use a flickering light, so it doesn’t get soot everywhere, and then you can roast it or dehydrate it,” he says.
“Otherwise, just compost it. They decompose … very well and very fast.”
Carving a pumpkin typically involves cutting out the mushy bits on the inside before carefully following drawn lines on the outer shell to carve a happy or spooky face on it.
Some people, myself included, save the seeds to roast in the oven. Rinse the slime and any remaining mushy bits off the seeds and lay them out on a pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper, drizzle a little bit of oil over them, and put them in the oven to roast for about 10 to 15 minutes at 250 F.
For the leftover pumpkins, the farm school scoops out the seeds so they can be eaten by students and staff.
“I love eating pumpkin,” says Garfinkel.
“I think roasting it in my three favourite things like olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cut them into chunks, roast them in an oven until they’re a nice golden brown and soft, and it’s delicious. Just like butternut squash,” he says.
He also suggests making soup or stew. He’s made a salmon chowder and put chunks of pumpkin into it with vindaloo-type spices.
So don’t throw your pumpkin carcass away. Try cooking with it first. If it doesn’t work out, the compost bin will still be there.