Jack o’ lanterns and pumpkins will soon meet their gory demise now that Halloween is over.

Pumpkins are both the biggest of the common fruits, and also the most wasted. So many of us bring at least one into our homes for Halloween, only to discard them afterward. Not many of us actually bake or make pies from ‘used’ pumpkins. However, those of us who like to can or freeze fruit and vegetables can really take advantage of this tradition by politely collecting jack o’ lanterns from neighbors, or getting unsold pumpkins from markets for very minimal expense. (Pumpkins are ‘low acid’ fruits that need to be canned with a pressure cooker.)

The somewhat small brownish ‘sugar pie’ pumpkins that are sold for pies are of course the best, with the richest flavor and meatiest shells. The common bright orange pumpkins used for jack o’ lanterns are not as meaty and lack flavor, but are certainly worth the price if they are free. White pumpkins can be just plain bland; but with enough sugar and spices, can make decent pie. The deeply furrowed green or gray pumpkins might likewise taste better than they look, but who knows? I certainly have not tried one yet.

Because the jack o’ lantern pumpkins have such thin shells, my neighbor and I prefer to cut them into pieces and steam them before peeling them. It is a messy job, which is why she has me do the peeling part of it. Before steaming, she cuts out any parts with candle wax (on the bottom) or soot (on the top). Once peeled, the pulp is ready to be pureed, and then frozen, canned or baked directly into pies.

Those of us who do not indulge in freezing, canning or baking of ‘recycled’ pumpkins can either give our pumpkins to neighbors who do, or must otherwise dispose of them. On the compost pile, pumpkins should be chopped up and spread out so that they do not mold and rot as much as they would if left intact. Chopping them with a shovel should be adequate. By now, there should be plenty of fresh leaves on the compost pile to spread pumpkin parts out over.

If fireplaces or wood stoves have been used already, the resulting ash can be spread out with chopped pumpkin, to inhibit mold in compost piles. Ash also deters snails. Just be certain that only dead ash gets scattered, without any embers, and that it gets spread thinly enough so that it does not become a mucky mess that actually inhibits composting.

15 thoughts on “Pumpkins After Halloween

    1. Actually, although I hate to admit it, a few of the many that neighbors used to leave on my porch were composted, just because I could not process and can them fast enough. Regardless, we stored more pumpkin puree than we should have. I used to make pumpkin casseroles with it. (I never learned how to cook or bake.

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  1. I recently passed a field full of “unused” pumpkins. What a waste, huh? As for pies, I haven’t made one in years. But I’ve made several really tasty soups. A friend gave me one of her nice, small homegrown pie pumpkins. It’s still intact, so it’s probably time to cook with it. Maybe I should try to make a pie…? Or maybe a cheesecake…?

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    1. Unfortunately, it is one of those agricultural commodities that involves significant waste. The orange jack o’ lantern types of pumpkins are mostly worthless after halloween. Livestock can eat some but not all of it.
      Pie pumpkins should be less perishable than the orange jack o’ lantern pumpkins, and even jack o’ lantern types can last for an impressive wile, as long as they are not damaged.

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      1. Where I lived in town, neighbors dropped off their pumpkins and jack o’ lanterns at the front porch, and then returned a few days later to retrieve them in quarts or pints. They were almost exclusively those orange jack o’ lantern type of pumpkins, so were not particularly flavorful, but they were not bad either. I got more pumpkin mush out of the deal than I knew what to do with.

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      2. Compost?! Oh my! Pumpkin is my favorite winter squash! I never learned how to cook, but I can make pumpkin pie, or a casserole that is like a pie, but with biscuits instead of crust.

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