What to do with a pumpkin after Halloween: 8 clever ideas to reduce waste
Learning what to do with a pumpkin after Halloween means you can make the most of your deteriorating jack-o'-lantern or carving leftovers
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It's important to know what to do with a pumpkin after Halloween. After all, sustainability and reducing waste are more important now than ever. These jolly veggies are a decorative staple for the season. But once the fun is over, should they really just go in the trash?
As pumpkins make such brilliant additions to indoor and outdoor Halloween decor ideas, it's easy to overlook their primary purpose – being eaten as food. According to food charity Hubbub (opens in new tab), 14.5 million pumpkins are expected to be left uneaten this Halloween, adding to a mountain of avoidable food waste. And that's in the UK alone.
It may be too late for you to make amends now if you've already thrown away the contents of your pumpkin post-carving, but we've got some ideas for next year if this is the case. Plus, it might not be too late to put the rest of it to good use. From using it as a bird feeder to adding it to the compost, there are many practical ways to get the most from your pumpkin (and prevent it from going to the landfill).
With the help of some experts, including the team at BusinessWaste (opens in new tab), we've put together plenty of tips on what to do with a pumpkin after Halloween so you can celebrate sustainably.
8 simple ideas for what to do with a pumpkin after Halloween
There are plenty of creative things you can do to make the most of your Halloween pumpkins.
1. Turn it into a bird feeder
A pumpkin bird feeder is a great addition to the garden and helps to reduce waste and feed wildlife in the run-up to colder weather.
Simply cut off the carved part of your pumpkin, leaving the bottom half to create a bowl shape. Then, using a knife, carefully make holes in the side of the pumpkin for twigs or chopsticks to be inserted to make a perch for your visitors.
To finish, measure out some twine to make a 'hanging basket' to hang up the pumpkin securely. Fill the pumpkin with a good quality bird seed, then attach it to a branch. It's a perfect solution if you're after more wildlife garden ideas for your plot.
2. Toast the seeds for a delicious snack
When you go to carve a pumpkin, don't forget to save the seeds. Toasting pumpkin seeds is delicious, nutritious, and so easy to do. It's simply a case of rinsing off all of the pulp, drying them with a tea towel, then baking them on a tray with a drizzle of oil at 170°C (338°F). Add salt and pepper before they go in the oven for extra flavor, or get creative with spices such as chili flakes or fennel seeds.
They should be golden and crunchy after about 10–15 minutes. Use them to top your morning oats or seasonal baked goods, or just nibble on them as a perfect on-the-go snack.
- Looking for pumpkin carving ideas? Our guide has lots to get you inspired.
3. Grow next year's crop
'If pumpkin seeds aren't your type of snack, you can store them instead and grow your very own jack-o'-lantern for next year,' says the team at Primrose (opens in new tab).
'Briefly rinse the seeds in running water to remove them of any pulp. Once you have your seeds, pick out the biggest ones as these will have a better chance of germinating.
'Store them in a cool, dry spot for one week then keep them in the fridge,' the team continues. 'Come April, you can plant your pumpkin seeds ready for October.'
You can find more tips on how to grow pumpkins with our guide.
4. Bake seasonal treats
You shouldn't eat a pumpkin that's already been carved and used as decor (nor should you eat one that's been painted). However, saving the innards for cooking with whilst you carve is definitely a good idea. Or maybe, you've gone for a natural look this season and just used un-carved, unpainted pumpkins for your decorations. As long as they're clean, not moldy, and in good condition, they can be used in delicious recipes after the celebrations are over.
Stacey Skidmore, managing director of sustainable retailer Ecovibe (opens in new tab), says, 'Many people throw away their pumpkin after Halloween, but they have so many alternative uses. When carving it up for your spooky decoration, make sure to set aside both the insides and seeds, as these can be used in tons of delicious recipes.
'Pumpkin seed pesto, muffins, and cinnamon rolls are all great seasonal options, and they're zero-waste, too,' she adds.
This pumpkin bread recipe from surplus food experts Too Good To Go (opens in new tab) is a delicious way to turn your leftover pumpkin into a tasty treat. The other ingredients are all store cupboard favorites, so it's easy to whip up without having to go to the shops.
- 200g pumpkin
- 80g butter
- 100g sugar
- 1 egg
- 125g plain flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (338°F), and grease and flour a loaf tin (L20xW10xD6.6cm).
- Cut scooped pumpkin into similar-sized pieces, then steam for 10–15 minutes or until soft. Mash the pumpkin until smooth, then leave in a sieve to strain for about 20–30 minutes, or until no water is draining through the sieve.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until pale. Add the egg and continue to whisk until light and fluffy. Stir in the drained, cooled pumpkin.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
- Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed – don't worry if there are a few lumps.
- Smooth the batter into the greased and floured loaf tin, then bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Enjoy warm, or store in an airtight container.
5. Spice up a latte
You can also try making this autumn favorite at home with leftovers from pumpkin carving.
Vita Coco (opens in new tab) has crafted this delicious pumpkin spice latte recipe which serves two. It's perfect for cozy nights in by the fire.
- 4 cups of Vita Coco coconut milk
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ½ tsp pumpkin spice mix
- 2 shots coffee (optional)
- Whipped cream, sprinkle of pumpkin spice and 2 x cinnamon sticks, to finish
- Put all of the ingredients into a blender and whizz together until smooth, then pour into a medium-sized pan and heat over medium-high temperature until heated through.
- Divide between two large glasses and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice.
- Add a couple of cinnamon sticks and enjoy.
Looking for more ways to celebrate the season in style? Our Halloween porch decor ideas are full of inspiration.
6. Leave it out for wildlife to eat
'You can scrub off any preservative wax on your pumpkins and place them outside for wildlife to eat,' suggests Stacey Skidmore of Ecovibe. 'The winter can be a difficult time for animals when sourcing enough food, so this way you are giving them a nutritious meal.
'However, it's important to compost your pumpkin if you've lit a tea light in it as the soot can make these animals ill,' she says.
The team at Primrose adds, 'Squirrels, foxes, and badgers all enjoy the taste of pumpkin – simply chop up the insides and leave in dishes for animals to enjoy.
'If you’re not a fan of encouraging animals to come to your garden, you can also donate your pumpkins to farms as animal feed.' Just remember to call ahead first to check that they're accepting donations.
7. Turn your pumpkin into a planter
If your pumpkin is still in good shape, why not turn it into a seasonal planter?
Simply fill your pumpkin with soil before planting your desired flowers and water for an on-trend and sustainable piece of autumn decor. It'll make a wonderful addition to your fall front porch ideas.
8. Add them to your compost bin
'Pumpkins are said to be a worm's favorite food, which is why they make a great composting material,' says the team at Primrose. And homemade compost can do wonders for giving your garden a boost.
Break the pumpkins up first to speed up the process and remove the seeds. Then, pop them in your compost bin and let nature get to work.
You can find plenty of tips on composting in our dedicated guide.
Do pumpkins attract rats?
Pumpkins are a treat for all kinds of animals, mice and rats included. Leaving yours out for wildlife can attract them, so if this doesn't appeal, it's best avoided.
If you're looking for tips on deterring pests, our advice on how to get rid of squirrels and how to get rid of foxes might come in handy.
Can leftover pumpkin be frozen?
Got too much leftover pumpkin on your hands? Don't worry, your freezer will come in handy.
Most pumpkin recipes call for pumpkin puree, so why not get prepared with a stash of ready-made portions in your freezer? All you need to do is cut the pumpkin flesh into chunks before steaming them until soft. Then, mash and leave to cool. Pop it into freezer bags and store in the freezer, ready to use. Pumpkin pie, anyone?
Alternatively, just chop up the raw pumpkin flesh into chunks (seeds removed), then add to freezer bags and freeze.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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