It's officially the season of fall and that means... pumpkins! To get you in the mood for fall, the Apple Barn is now selling pumpkins for $.40 per pound. Carving them is an obvious and fun option, but oftentimes a large portion of the pumpkin goes to waste at the end of the season. However, there are countless other ways to use parts of this squash and its plant that are unknown to many. Below are options that allow you to utilize the entire pumpkin even after the season is over!
Most of us purchase pumpkins from a local patch or orchard like Kimmel. However, if you grow them at home, the actual pumpkin is not the only edible part of the plant. The flowers and leaves can be eaten as well. Male flowers do not produce pumpkins; therefore, you can enjoy these flowers without affecting production! Usually, at the start of the season, there is a large abundance of male flowers before fruit production begins. Pumpkin flowers are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium. They are best enjoyed as a topping on salads or stuffed and fried. There are many recipes available online for uses of squash flowers. As for the leaves, they can be treated as a heavy winter green or spinach. These are also great additions to salads as well as soups and sautés.
When pumpkins are carved, the seeds and stringy portions of the squash are usually thrown away. Not this year! Both parts of the squash can be utilized in different recipes. Did you know that a single cup of pumpkin seeds can provide 22% of your daily recommended fiber? That is a lot of fiber going to waste! Pumpkin seeds can be roasted in a pan or the oven to become toasted deliciousness. Toss them with brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and melted butter to add extra flavor! Seeds are more commonly used than the stringy guts. These stringy pieces can be used in pumpkin milkshakes or pumpkin gut bread. I bet you never considered using this portion of the pumpkin! Place two bowls near you when carving and throw both the seeds and stringy parts in them for later use.
We often think that purchasing a pumpkin from an orchard or patch means we have to use them as a decoration. However, this is not true! If this isn't the route you want to go, incorporating the entire pumpkin into a recipe is always an option. After removing the seeds and strings, the pumpkin can be cut up into chunks and baked in the oven until soft. Let the soft, cooked pumpkin cool, and then scoop out the flesh or "meat" of the pumpkin. The flesh can then be blended in a food processor to make pumpkin puree! The puree can be frozen until Thanksgiving for pumpkin pie or be used immediately in soups, butter, bread, rolls, and many other desserts!
If you decide to carve pumpkins or simply use them as decorations, once the season is over, the fruit can be composted. Toss the pumpkins in a compost pile to create natural fertilizer to add back to the soil for next year! Make sure to remove seeds before composting, if you haven't already, or else you will have a pumpkin patch growing where compost should be. Smashing or cutting the pumpkin up can make the decomposing process occur faster. Plus, no one said smashing pumpkins wasn't fun! Many towns or cities create a drop off site for old pumpkins if you have no use for compost.
This season is not complete without pumpkins, so stop by to select the perfect one for you! There are many different uses for a single pumpkin and hopefully, you can find ways to utilize the entire squash. Don't forget until October 12th, Kimmel has extended their hours and the retail store will be open Monday and Tuesday from 9-5 PM and Wednesday through Friday from 9-7 PM providing plenty of time to shop for pumpkins!
Alyssa Rosenbaum - Education and Food Safety Intern