That glorious Jack’O’Lantern is more than just a pretty (or scary) face – pumpkins are not only edible, they’re nutritious and delicious. Don’t waste any of yours! Here are some excellent ways to use it up.
Know what you can use. You can actually use just about every part of a pumpkin, including the skin and the mushy “guts” and stringy inner fibers that you scoop out before you carve. But for practical purposes, the parts that are easiest to use are the seeds and the flesh (which is the solid part, about an inch or so thick, that’s attached to the skin). If you’re going to carve your pumpkin, you’re pretty much limited to using the seeds (and possibly the mushy “guts” and strings, which can be boiled and made into pumpkin stock soup) – you won’t want to roast and eat the flesh of a pumpkin that’s been sitting around carved for a week or so. Ewwww.
Save the seeds! When you’re carving your Jack’O’Lantern (or cleaning out your painted pumpkin when it’s time for cooking) take time to separate the seeds from the rest of the innards, and when you’re all done give the seeds a through rinse. From here you have a couple of options:
Feed the birds. If you don’t want to eat the seeds, the birds will definitely enjoy them. You don’t have to roast them – just let them dry out and put them into your bird feeders and your feathered friends will thank you. A note on feeding other critters: careful about that. All kinds of animals would enjoy eating the post-season remains of your Jack’O’Lantern, but you can’t specify which critters will be drawn by what you put out. It might be squirrels and deer, but it also might be mice, rats, bears, or other less-than-desirable backyard guests. Don’t risk it.
Roast the seeds for a yummy treat. The easiest method is to simply heat your oven to 300 degrees and spread a tablespoon or so of olive oil on a cookie sheet. Dump the seeds onto the cookie sheet and stir them around so they get coated in the oil. Spread them out so they’re in a single layer; if you want to add salt, sugar, or spices, now’s the time. Roast for about 45 minutes or until they look toasty and brown.
What can you do with roasted pumpkin seeds? Tons of things! Just about anything you can do with nuts, you can do with pumpkin seeds. Eat ‘em by the fistful. Add them to salads (yum!). Use them as toppings for other dishes. Stir them into cookies, muffins, or brownies and they’ll add flavor and crunch. You can even make candy out of them!! Here are some interesting pumpkin seed recipes:
Now on to the pumpkin itself!! NOTE: this step should only be considered if your pumpkin has been painted rather than carved, and the fresher the pumpkin is, the better. The flesh of the pumpkin can easily be made into pumpkin puree, which is the basis for just all kinds of delicious stuff. Here are a couple jim-dandy photo-illustrated articles on exactly how to make pumpkin puree:
Once you’re got puree, the sky’s the limit. You can cook with it, bake with it, or use it in an amazing number of treats ranging from pumpkin butter to pumpkin milkshakes & smoothies, and even high-octane pumpkin spice cocktails. Go nuts!