We have all had the Halloween spirit over the years, finding a great costume, stocking up on sweet goods for trick or treating and carving the pumpkin but one question that always gets asked in my house is what do we do with the inside of that wonderfully juicy pumpkin?
Firstly, let us understand what we actually have in front of us when we buy a pumpkin for carving. Most of those on sale at this time of the year are grown for size and shape over taste and in general the smaller pumpkins, whilst having less ingredients inside are much more flavoursome.
Fundamentally the large, bright orange ones that make great Jack ‘O Lanterns tend to have a more bitter flavour than the smaller and more varied colours which tend to be sweeter and have a slightly firmer texture which gives you much more scope for tasty recipes.
However, most of us will be buying the classic size and shape for pumpkin carving but that does not mean the flesh and the seeds cannot be used and we hope to entice you with some great ideas on how to reuse the innards and leftover pumpkin.
These are the first thing we see once we have removed the top of the pumpkin or as it is known, the stem. There are usually hundreds in every pumpkin, and they are proven to be highly beneficial to improving our general health including our hearts, blood sugar levels and even fertility as they are rich in magnesium, iron and fibre, so this time why not put them to one side and find a recipe for them.
For the best results in the sense of health benefits then leave the shell on as they contain a higher percentage of fibre than unshelled seeds and yes, they can be eaten raw but roasting enhances the antioxidant levels which again will add to your overall well-being.
Whichever way you choose to use the seeds whether you use this great roasting recipe Spiced pumpkin seeds | Tesco Real Food which make a fantastic snack or simply add them to a soup or salad you will not only be using a valuable food commodity but improving your diet at the same time.
Top Tip: If you suffer from diabetes or hypoglycemia please check with your doctor before adding pumpkin seeds to your diet.
This is where the versatility of the pumpkin really starts to shine through, the possibilities are amazing as the internet is awash with some wonderful recipes and idea.
One of those great debates that flourish at this time of year is what is the best way to scrape out the flesh and I am sure that everyone has their own theory but for me it is the ice cream scoop that wins this argument hands down, not only is this tool designed specifically for scooping, but the sharp edges are perfect for scraping the sides of your pumpkin if you want to thin them before carving.
Once you have taken out as much as you need then it is time to start cooking and the obvious ones are always family favourites like pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin risottos but my personal favourite is pumpkin katsu wrapped in panko breadcrumbs. Most recipes advise using a peeled whole pumpkin cut into slices, but you can use the scraped flesh by mixing it into patties and freezing before applying the breadcrumbs.
Making a tasty stock is by far the easiest recipe you can choose, just put all those succulent insides as a pumpkin puree in a big stock pot with any other veggies you have on hand, like onion, carrots, celery, garlic, fennel, and mushrooms. Add a bay leaf or two, cover with water, and simmer for about an hour, stirring a few times. Freeze it and bring it out when needed.
Feed the animals
If you do not have the time or inclination to make a scrumptious meal from the flesh, then why not feed the animals in your garden. Cut your pumpkin into small pieces for the foraging animals, like squirrels and birds who are fattening up for winter. Or donate it to a local farmer as animal feed treat for their goats and pigs!
Every year people debate if you should leave should you leave pumpkins out for wildlife. The RSPCA recommend it but the forestry commission say not to leave old pumpkins in forests as it’s not natural food. In your garden they will be loved by foxes, badgers, birds and squirrels but can make hedgehogs ill. So it would seem to be safe that a above ground level pumpkin bird feeder could be safest.
The simplest way to keep your pumpkin out of the bin is to use it for your own garden. You can chop your pumpkin into small bits and add it to the compost pile for a healthy dose of nitrogen as it decomposes. Remove the seeds first, as they can germinate and start to grow within your compost.
Two birds with one stone
This year I am actively looking for the tastier pumpkin ahead of the larger ones. At least that way I get to enjoy the carving with my children whilst getting the best flavours for my recipes. It may even become a talking point amongst the trick or treaters when they see the exotic colours and shapes mixed with a large touch of terror of course.
Top pumpkins to eat and carve
Here in the UK, we have a huge variety to choose from but here is the top for eating that will also look great once they have been carved:
- The Crown Prince: Blue/grey in colour and widely regarded as the tastiest amongst the squash family.
- Galeux d’Esyines: Which have a wart like outer skin that looks fantastically fearful with a sweet luscious flesh, perfect for pies.
- Casper: Fast becoming the Halloween pumpkin of choice as it is white, has a soft, easy to carve skin and delicious flesh.
No matter which types you choose I am sure the enjoyment you and the children will get from carving, cooking and eating them will add to the Halloween experience and one that you can make into a tradition year after year.
Fun facts about the humble pumpkin
- They are in fact a fruit and not a vegetable as most people believe.
- Every part of the pumpkin is edible, including the skin, leaves, flowers, and stem. Pumpkin and other squash blossoms can be eaten raw.
- The first Jack-o-Lanterns weren’t made from pumpkins at all. They were made from turnips! When Irish emigrants moved to America, they found pumpkins much more suitable for carving.
- Trevor Hunt holds the Guinness World Record for most pumpkins carved in an hour. He carved 109 pumpkins in 60 minutes, or just 33 seconds per pumpkin.