Putting a Face on Waste?

I woke up cold this morning, which means that it’s time to turn on the heat and buy a few pumpkins.

On the latter, I recently received a tweet from Stef at The Cupcake Project asking whether rotting jack-o-lanterns bother me because it’s food going to waste. Great question.

R.I.P. 2008 Red Sox. Photo by Jim Murphy via Creative CommonsSince I love carving pumpkins and don’t really enjoy eating them (pumpkin cookies and muffins never quite do it for me), this isn’t one of my many pet peeves.

I do roast the seeds from the pumpkins I carve each year. To be honest, though, I don’t usually think of pumpkins as food. I doubt I’m alone there.

Upon further reflection, carving faces into pumpkins doesn’t seem so bad to me because the pumpkin is still valued. The gourd just plays a cultural role instead of a culinary one.

Of course, now that you bring it up, it does seem kind of wasteful. Damn you, Stef!

For those of you annoyed by the idea of not getting the most out of your pumpkin (I may soon fit that description), you can carve it close to Halloween, display it out for a couple of days and then cook with it after Halloween. As long as you live somewhere reasonably cold, the pumpkin should keep for a few days.

If the whole thing really bothers you, don’t carve your pumpkin. An uncarved pumpkin is just as festive–though not as fun–and it’ll stay good much longer. And you can always make a face in other edible things.

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  1. Posted October 20, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I think that if you buy the pumpkins you are going to carve from a local source, you’ll be supporting a local farmer and doing some good that way. If you go to the grocery store that has shipped its pumpkins hundreds of miles or more, a lot of fuel will be wasted for your carving pumpkin. So if you’re going to carve, try a local pumpkin.

  2. Posted October 20, 2008 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Great response. Glad I made you think. You certainly have made me think about my food habits.

  3. Posted October 20, 2008 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    That’s a great point, Robin. It could even be thousands of miles.

    A few years back, there was a Boy Scout fundraiser pumpkin sale. I was pleased to support these kids, but quite surprised to find out that they received their truckload of pumpkins from Mexico!

    To which, I thought: ¡Viva la comida local!

  4. Georgi
    Posted October 20, 2008 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I like to use my carved pumpkin as plant food. Just dig a hole next to a shrub or tree and drop it in. The plants love it.

  5. Posted October 20, 2008 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    We always carve our pumpkins on Halloween day, that way they’re still good to eat.

    I bake them up for puree and freeze them in 2 cup portions (the amount for pie.)

    I suppose there are healthier ways to eat up pumpkin, but I just love pie!

    I do compost the seeds though, as I really don’t like them.

    -Katy Wolk-Stanley
    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


  6. Posted October 20, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    This recipe will make a pumpkin-lover out of anyone, even you, Jonathan!

    Pumpkin, Apple, Cheddar Soup

    2 tbsp. olive oil or butter
    1 lb. pumpkin – peeled, seeded, and cubed (or 2 cups canned)
    2 c. apples – peeled, cored, chopped
    1/2 c. leeks or onions – chopped
    1/2 c. carrots – chopped
    2 1/2 – 3 c. chicken (or vegetable) stock
    1 tbsp. brown sugar
    1 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. pepper
    pinch each: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
    1 c. sharp cheddar – grated
    1 c. light or heavy cream (not half & half)

    Heat oil (or butter) in heavy saucepan or soup pot. Sautee leeks (or onions), carrots, pumpkin, and apples until tender.

    Add stock and spices. Simmer until vegetables are very tender (20 -30 minutes,) stirring often. Add cheese and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat. Puree (in blender, or with immersion blender in pot) until smooth. Add cream, and serve.

  7. Posted October 20, 2008 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m even worse that you, Jonathan. I have a huge compost bin and an organic veggie garden, and had some volunteer pumpkins decide to grow in one of my empty beds. I am now the proud owner of 8 pumpkins that none of my neighbors wants. They’re jack-o-lantern pumpkins so eating them isn’t really an option, they’re stringy and thin-fleshed. But I still feel bad for wasting. So I have them displayed next to my door, where they will doubtless stay until they rot, and then I’ll re-compost them. My Winter veggies will be happy, though.

  8. Posted October 21, 2008 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    OMG! Pumpkin is my favourite VEGETABLE. Vegetables are s.a.v.o.u.r.y so im not surprised youre not into pumpkin sweet things as they are awful. But baked /roasted pumpkin…olive oil, salt flakes or rock salt, rosemary sprigs or some dukka and baked until soft and caramelised are heavenly!. The british feed theirs to the pigs and Americans make sweet treats, im not surprised pumpkin has a bad rap. or simple pumpkin soup made with pumpkin, onion and a good flavoured stock (i hate the milky ones) is standard winter fare in Oz.

  9. Posted October 21, 2008 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    OK, OK, I’ll try a pumpkin soup! I do like a nice orange, autumnal soup, so I’m sure Diane’s recipe will hit the spot.

    Good point, Kel. Maybe that’s why pumpkin pie is darn near savoury. Mmm…dukka.

  10. dee dee
    Posted October 21, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite things. Since our girls are grown, we no longer buy pumpkins to carve, but I still crave the seeds. So I’ve asked my co-workers who still do the carving thing to save the seeds for me. One friend buys pumpkins (all local, btw. pumpkin picking is a big family activity here in Bucks County, PA) for decoration, then when the season is over, she puts them out in the fields for critters to enjoy. This year, I’m getting the seeds before the deer and raccoons get the rest.

  11. Posted October 21, 2008 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate Robin’s point. That’s the sort of thinking that definitely resonates with me.

    I’m sure Halloween food waste hardly compares with that of a holiday like, for example, Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, it is interesting to think of the food waste associated with Halloween, including “traditional” teenage pranks like smashing pumpkins and egging houses.

  12. Posted October 22, 2008 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    I’ve had pumpkins go moldy very quickly after being used as jack o lanterns. If you’re going to cook it, bring it in right after use and at least stick it in the fridge, cut it up if you have to, and cook it as soon as possible.

    Also the white pumpkins taste better than the orange ones, if you’re planning to cook with them…

    The seeds are awesome roasted and salted!

  13. Posted October 27, 2008 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi I just found your blog. If one does not put a candle in the pumpkin donate to a farm with goats…our goats love pumpkins!! So do the chickens.

    Just my .02

  14. Posted October 28, 2008 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    First, I LOVE pumpkin . . . I buy Cheese Pumpkins and Sugar Pumpkins to make Pumpkin Quiche, Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dip, Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Oatmeal. I roast 2-3 pumpkins a week in autumn (all from the farmers market).

    That said, it never occurred to me to eat a Jack-’O-Lantern pumpkin. Those are stringy and would be really difficult to prepare for food I imagine. So I don’t really think of it as wasting food since those kinds of pumpkins aren’t really edible (in my opinion).

  15. Galaxy_Grrrl
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Not all pumpkins varieties are grown to be eaten by humans, just like not all corn varieties are grown to be eaten by humans. I am sure Jack O’Lantern pumpkins are edible but probably not of the consistency and flavor pumpkin appreciators enjoy. Growing plants for decoration may be wasteful if you do not have a compost to utilize. Also, the nutrients that are put back in the soil from growing the pumpkin (any variety) is beneficial even if the end product may be wasted.

  16. CT
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins certainly aren’t the most flavorful, but they’re absolutely fine for pies, pureed soups, and muffins and cakes. It drives me crazy when people say they’re not fit for eating! Bake them or cook them in a crockpot, puree, and make yourself some pumpkin muffins.

    Yes, my freezer was stuffed for months last year with little containers of pumpkin, but I really was sorry when I ran out.

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