Making the Most of Fall Pumpkins
Halloween is a vibrant time signifying bounty of the year's harvest as well as the season for costume parties and trick-or-treating. It is also a time for colorful squashes, including the ever-popular pumpkin. Perched on front porches as Jack-O'-Lanterns, or on display in entryways and along garden paths, the pumpkin is an adaptable staple for fall decor. The pumpkin is also a favorite for delicious pie and soup recipes this time of year. Pumpkin dishes never get old, and they're full of nutrients that benefit heart health such as fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, not to mention being absolutely delicious in both sweet and savory creations!
The USDA reports the United States produces around 2 billion pounds of pumpkins annually with Americans spending over $575 million on this seasonal fruit. While many pumpkins are consumed, a staggering number of pumpkins meet their end in the landfill after Halloween, producing greenhouse gases and literally taking years to fully decompose due to lack of oxygen. Now, that's scary!
Here are Seven Tips for a Greener Halloween
You can turn your pumpkin into a seasonal planter just by cutting a hole in the top and scooping out the innards (the stringy guts and the seeds). If the pumpkin is large enough, it can become a festive planter for a pot of brightly-colored chrysanthemums. Smaller pumpkins are perfect planters for kitchen garden plant varieties such as Rosemary, Oregano, and Sage Herbs to keep on hand while cooking this time of year.
Place your pumpkin in your compost pile, especially if it's already carved and has started to rot. It will decompose with the help of oxygen and other microorganisms and, in turn, help become rich soil for the garden. If you're not a compost pile owner, there may be a composting program or farm in your community that could make good use of your pumpkin.
Remove the seeds, rinse and dry them, and save in a cool, dry place for next year's garden planting. Don't have space to grow a pumpkin plant? Donate the seeds to a local garden program or neighborhood school, or add to the bird feeder it's a gift that keeps on giving!
Roast the seeds for a convenient and healthy snack. Just toss them lightly in some olive oil and sea salt, place them on a cooking sheet, and bake them for 30 minutes at 300°F. Pumpkin seeds are naturally gluten-free and low in carbs, making them an excellent choice for those on a Keto diet. They're easy to pack for a hike in the woods or in a child's lunch box. Add an extra dash of cayenne pepper or cumin for additional flavor as well as support for your digestive and cardiovascular health.*
Pumpkin puree can be used for a number of recipes and applications. Cut a whole pumpkin in half, removing the stem. Scoop out the innards and set them aside for other uses. Place each half face-down in a baking dish with a cup of water, and bake for 90 minutes at 325°F, or until tender. Once fully cooked, simply scoop out the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor until smooth. Pumpkin puree can be used in many different recipes including delicious and nutritious pumpkin bread, the filling for pumpkin ravioli, or even in a fabulous fall chili.
Use your puree in a nourishing DIY facial mask. Packed with collagen-boosting vitamins, and antioxidants that provide support for tired skin, pumpkin can help brighten your face with this simple mask: Use a cup of fresh pumpkin puree and add a spoonful of raw local honey for hydration and a drizzle of virgin coconut oil for moisturizing benefits. Mix well and apply evenly to the face gently with your fingers. Once applied, relax for 10 minutes to allow the mask to work its magic, then rinse, pat dry, and indulge in your well-hydrated skin. This mask is gentle enough to use on a daily basis if desired.
Transforming your pumpkin into a savory soup or a batch of sweet muffins is always a good plan, especially when shared with others. This year, spice things up a bit and try one of these 8 incredible plant-based pumpkin recipes for the next holiday party or to bring to the office to share with your coworkers. You can even pair a slice of pumpkin pie with a steaming mug of aromatic Golden Milk to share with a loved one on a cool fall day.
From all of us at Gaia Herbs, we hope that your Halloween is full of magic and fun, and that you enjoy the bounty and beauty of Nature this time of year.