By Kristen Rice
This time of year brings to mind crimson leaves, hot apple cider, and pumpkins! In fact, pumpkins have been everywhere you look...and now they might be past their prime. What to do once your pumpkin's decoration-worthy days are done?
At PHS, our first thoughts focus on creating healthy, livable environments, and providing access to fresh food for all. Pumpkins can do their part in helping us achieve these goals even after they have played their part in your holiday decorations. Consider these ecologically friendly options for your past-their-prime pumpkins.
Pumpkins are a great source of nitrogen for compost bins! If you do not keep a compost pile, bury the pumpkins in your yard. As it decays, nutrients and vitamins will enrich your soil, including vitamins A, C, and potassium.
Pumpkins make a great snack for native wildlife. “I throw mine into an out-of-the-way place and let the squirrels have at it,” says Sally McCabe, PHS Associate Director of Education. Groundhogs, squirrels, birds, and deer can snack on your leftover pumpkins.
As long as it has not rotted, your pumpkins can serve a variety of décor purposes. From flower vases to hats, centerpieces to bird feeders, pumpkins are a great gourd for decorating with their shape and durability.
Seed saving is a simple way to guarantee you will have pumpkins for next fall. Place the dry seeds in a sealed envelope and keep them in a cool and dry place where they can stay undisturbed for a long period of time (your refrigerator is perfect for this). Next spring, you can plant the seeds in your garden for fresh orange pumpkins by fall. Or make pumpkin seed bombs with them. A seed bomb is a little ball made up of a combination of compost, clay and seeds. The compost and clay act as a carrier for the seeds so they can be easily planted. Interestingly enough, the seeds you save may not be the same type of pumpkin that will eventually grow, due to the fact that pumpkins hybridize themselves while growing near other varieties. “It’s an adventure because you don’t know what you’re going to get, and that’s the fun of it. There are more than 45 different varieties of pumpkins, all in different sizes, shapes, and colors," says McCabe.
There are so many possibilities for pumpkin-related meals. If you have extra seeds from seed saving, you can roast them with olive oil and light seasoning for a crunchy treat! If your pumpkins are in good shape, cut them up and use the flesh in pies, desserts, soups, and much more. Whether you grow your own pumpkins or work with one you purchased, you'll be gaining a variety of health benefits, as well as the delicious flavor pumpkins provide.
Before you throw your pumpkin out in the trash, take a moment to consider what you can do to help Mother Earth. Recycling or upcycling your pumpkin into its next life is the right -- and sustainable -- thing to do!