What to do with Halloween pumpkins
You won’t be able to escape them. They will haunt you in the supermarket, they will follow you around the greengrocers, and you’ll be chased into fields full of hundreds them – yes, we’re talking about pumpkins. Come October, people go wild for the squash, which has become a big part of the Halloween tradition the world round.
An estimated 10 million pumpkins are grown in the UK every year, with 95 per cent hollowed out into lanterns for Halloween. Experts say that every October, the UK wastes around 18,000 tonnes of perfectly edible pumpkin as a direct result of the holiday. That’s the equivalent weight of 1,500 double decker buses, or enough to make a bowl of soup for every person in the country. Martin Goss, a Colchester council representative responsible for waste says: “Each year, more and more pumpkins are being used for Halloween decorations, and it’s important that these don’t become a Halloween nightmare and end up in a landfill. To avoid this, we’re asking Colchester residents to recycle their pumpkin leftovers by cutting them up and placing them in with their weekly food waste or, if they are too large, place them on top or next to their caddy.” Goss’s message is one that needs to be followed by the rest of the UK.
Originating in the US, Halloween traditions are gaining favour in the UK, yet, it seems citizens are reluctant to take on a large part of American Halloween culture: cooking with pumpkin. According to new figures, two in five Britons now buy a pumpkin at this time of year, but only a third choose to cook the scooped-out insides after carving. However, environmental waste charity Hubbub (hubbub.org.uk), found that more than half of Halloween pumpkin buyers in the UK would welcome recipes to help them make more of the leftovers, with many also claiming they’d like to know how this excess can be put to other innovative uses.
If you’re thinking of carving your own jack-o-lantern, make sure it doesn’t get wasted. Even if you don’t like the taste, there are plenty of ways you can prevent pumpkin waste – here’s what you can do.
Get creative in the kitchen
Use the flesh to rustle-up delicious pumpkin pies, soups, smoothies or houmous. Before you start carving, carefully scoop out the insides and store in an airtight container and refrigerate, to keep it fresh until you’re ready to use it (try to use within three days of cutting, or chop into cubes and freeze). There are so many dishes that the fruit can be included in, both sweet and savoury. Check out our recipes section for lots of tasty recipes
Snack on the seeds
Don’t forget about pumpkin seeds, which can be toasted and seasoned, or even eaten raw. They’re a great source of antioxidants, magnesium, zinc and fatty acids, and a healthy snack or addition to salads.
Feed pumpkin to companion animals or wildlife
Hamsters and wild birds will happily munch on raw pumpkin seeds, whilst deer enjoy pumpkin shells. Try cutting up old carvings into quarters, and placing them in woodlands or meadows, where deer are known to graze – just make sure the shells aren’t covered in paint or other applied decorations.
Make a face mask
Pumpkin flesh is abundant in zinc and vitamins A, C and E, which makes its purée healthy to apply to the skin. Make a DIY face mask by mixing five teaspoons of pumpkin purée with three teaspoons of brown sugar – which will naturally exfoliate your skin – and a tiny splash of plant-based milk. Stir well, before applying to your face in circular motions. Relax for up to 20 minutes and allow the pumpkin goodness to seep into your skin.
Hold onto any seeds you scoop out until April, which is when the optimum pumpkin seed-sowing season begins, and prepare to have your own patch next year. For more information on how to grow pumpkins, visit bbc.co.uk/gardening. If you don’t want to eat the pumpkin flesh, why not pop it into your compost, to help to naturally fertilise your garden?
Host your own ‘Pumpkin Rescue’
In 2014, environmental charity, Hubbub, launched the Pumpkin Rescue campaign, which seeks to limit the waste created from pumpkins each Halloween. Since its launch in Oxford, Pumpkin Rescue has taken the world by storm, comprising activities that range from carving and cooking workshops to tasting events and recipe ideas from leading UK chefs. In 2015 Pumpkin Rescue was taken on by 25 UK towns and even crossed oceans to the US. 2016 saw over 40 community festivals across the UK and Asia, supporting 126 events. In 2018, a total of 31 groups ran 40 events across the UK. All in all, Pumpkin Rescue has created 239 local events and workshops attended by a total of 18,600 people. This has led to a whopping 17,500 pumpkins being diverted from landfill. Millions more have been reached online and through the press, creating a movement of people eating their pumpkins! Hubbub are always on the hunt for organisations, groups, individuals or businesses who would like to join in and run a #PumpkinRescue event to tackle food waste.