Heard it from a Scout: 5 ways to reuse your Halloween pumpkin
During the Halloween season, a staggering number of pumpkins become jack-o-lanterns on October 31. But by the next morning, we're left wondering how to reuse them.
From recipes to candles, here are five creative ways to find a second use for your old pumpkin:
1. Use it in recipes
Pumpkin, like other types of squash, is a delicious fruit and is most commonly eaten as pumpkin pie. But pumpkins can be used to make a variety of other recipes, from breads to soups, to risottos and cheesecakes. Before you get cooking, though, pay attention to the type of pumpkin you’re working with to see how it can best be used, as there are several types.
If your pumpkin was carved and left outside, it’s best to use a different pumpkin for cooking, as hungry animals and insects may have gotten to it first. If your pumpkin was an indoor jack-o-lantern, cut away any areas burned by a candle or covered in wax before using it in recipes. The key to reusing a Halloween pumpkin for cooking is to make sure that it is free of mold or other signs of decomposition.
2. Use it to nourish your garden
If you’re not interested in cooking with pumpkin, or your pumpkin is unfit to eat, just cut it into small pieces and add it to your garden. The pumpkin will break down over the winter and add nutrients to your garden soil, helping next year’s plants grow faster and stronger. You can also add the pumpkin to your compost bin if you compost your food scraps.
3. Use it as a planter
An alternative gardening use for your old pumpkin is to fill it with soil and use it as a container for any potted plants that you’re planning on transplanting after the winter. In addition to making a great statement piece among your other pots, the plants inside the pumpkin will benefit from the nutrients in the pumpkin’s flesh.
In the spring, you can plant the entire pumpkin in the ground, creating a mess-free compostable planter that will break down and help nourish other nearby plants. The pumpkin will last a few weeks, even months, before it starts decomposing.
4. Use it as a natural feeder
To feed your neighbourhood animals, slice off the top of your pumpkin and fill it with bird seed. By using twine to secure the pumpkin to a tree branch, you can make a handy and unique bird feeder, or leave it on the ground for backyard visitors, like squirrels and other small animals, to enjoy. This is an especially good use of your old jack-o-lanterns, as the carved-out eyes, nose, mouth and top ensure that several birds can get to the seeds without overcrowding the feeder.
If you’re planning on turning the pumpkin into a hanging bird feeder, make sure to score areas on the pumpkin's shell for the twine so that the twine does not slip, causing your homemade feeder to drop onto the ground. Also, make sure to cross the twine underneath the pumpkin at least twice to ensure a stable hold.
Birds, squirrels and other small animals will likely finish off the seeds. However, if your neighbourhood is often visited by bears, it’s best not to leave out any pumpkins, which might attract them.
5. Use it to decorate
If your pumpkin is still in good shape, use it on your table as a vase, or place a scented candle inside it and surround it with other gourds and dried harvest foods, such as corn. It looks festive and can save you money from having to buy table centrepieces and fall decorations. This is an especially ideal way to recycle smaller pumpkins. To be safe, level off the bottom of the pumpkin if you’re using it to hold decorations such as a candle, as they are prone to rolling if jostled. Check out this step-by-step guide for making a cinnamon candle using a pumpkin recipe.
"Heard it from a Scout" is written by members of Scouts Canada’s Youth Spokesperson program. This post was authored by Diana McBey.