Pumpkins are in season! As we begin to move into the cooler, autumn months we begin to see pumpkins all around us. There are so many different ways we can use pumpkins in our gardens and around our homes. The following are some ways you can use pumpkins this season!
Harvest Pumpkin Seeds – Pumpkin seeds can be easily harvested and saved for the next season. Be sure to save pumpkin seeds from rare, heirloom, or your favourite pumpkin varieties, for the next season.
To harvest pumpkin seeds, first, remove the pulp and seeds from the inside of the pumpkin and place it in a bowl. Next, pick out the pumpkin seeds, place in a colander, and rinse the seeds. It is important to select large, undamaged seeds, as these seeds will have the best chance at germinating next season. Take the rinsed seeds and space them out on waxed paper or parchment paper. Allow the seeds to dry for one week. Store the seeds in a labelled paper bag or envelope, in a cool, dry place.
Roast Pumpkin Seeds – Pumpkins often have plenty of seeds, so if you have harvested the seeds and you would like to save some for planting next season, consider roasting the remaining pumpkin seeds for eating.
Similar to harvesting pumpkin seeds for planting, pick out the pumpkin seeds, place in a colander, and rinse the seeds. Next, take the rinsed seeds, place them on parchment paper in a single layer, and allow them to dry. Do not use waxed paper as it will catch fire in the oven when roasting. Once dry, season the pumpkin seeds with your favourite spices and oil (the seasoning combinations are endless), and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast the pumpkin seeds in a 350°F oven for 10 to 20 minutes, or until golden around the edges.
Make Pumpkin Puree – Now that we have covered what to do with pumpkin seeds, what can you do with the pumpkin flesh?
Pumpkin puree requires only two ingredients and can be used in an endless number of recipes. To make pumpkin puree, carefully cut a baking pumpkin (often called sugar pumpkins, baking pumpkins or pie pumpkins) in half using a sharp knife. Remove the stringy flesh and seeds save these for roasting) and pierce the pumpkin using a fork. Sprinkle sea salt on the pumpkin and place the cut side down. Roast the pumpkin in a 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it can be pierced easily with a fork. Once cooled, scoop the flesh into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Pumpkin puree can keep in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for months.
Pumpkin Recipes – Next up, pumpkin recipes! There are so many recipes that already include pumpkin or can include a pumpkin twist; the possibilities are endless. Pumpkin lasagna, pumpkin butter, and pumpkin smoothies, just to name a few. Pumpkin flesh also makes a delicious addition to vegetable stock. Add pumpkin to our vegetable broth recipe for a seasonal twist on vegetable broth.
We will be sharing pumpkin recipes on our Halton Food Instagram, stay tuned!
Add Pumpkin to Compost – Pumpkins make excellent additions to compost to create rich soil for next year’s garden. Cut the pumpkins into small pieces (about the size of your thumb) and add them to your compost. If you don’t have a backyard compost but would still like to use your pumpkin as compost for the garden, cut the pumpkin into small pieces and bury the pieces in a deep trench (at least 18-24 inches) in your garden bed.
Decorative Pumpkins – Did you grow pumpkins, but do not want to eat them just yet? Pumpkins make beautiful additions to seasonal décor in your home, and once you’re ready to harvest the seeds or roast the pumpkin flesh, remove the pumpkin from your décor. Pumpkins can last anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks if uncut.
Pumpkin Crafts – Jack-o-lanterns are usually the first thing you think of when you think of pumpkin crafts. Yes, pumpkins can be used for carving, but they can also be used in many other activities.
A great alternative to carving pumpkins is painting pumpkins. Be sure to use acrylic paints as those are best for use on pumpkins.
Using already carved pumpkins as fall container decoration is another excellent option. Turn the carved side around and place flowers, decorative grasses, or decorations inside. Pumpkin planters are a great way to repurpose your carved pumpkin.
What is your favourite way to use pumpkins around your home and garden? Share in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.
Contributed by Alicja Jazwiec, Community Garden Education Assistant
OMAFRA. (2020). Pumpkin and Squash Production. Retrieved from: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/00-031.htm#:~:text=Harvest%20Season%2FPeriod,August%2C%20September%20and%20into%20October.