Americans send a billion pounds of nutritious food to rot in the dump every Halloween. Here are three better things to do with it:
Our Halloween pumpkins are contributing to climate change, the U.S. Department of Energy warned us in 2015. Most of the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. each year end up in the landfill, the agency says. Organic waste left to decompose in landfills releases methane into atmosphere. Methane is “a harmful greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide,” according to the agency. Pumpkins are also very nutritious, making it a shame to waste all that perfectly good food. So before you toss yours in the trash — or the neighbor kids smash it on your porch — consider nourishing yourself, wildlife, or the soil:
1. Eat it
Start with the seeds. Loaded with magnesium, zinc, protein, amino acids, antioxidants and omega 3s, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped in tiny packages. A recent study found pumpkin and squash seeds inhibit skin cancer growth.
Just spread them on a baking sheet and toast at 300 degrees for about a half hour.
Make broth. Boil the stringy, slimy stuff from the center in water to make broth for soup. Try adding carrot, celery and other vegetable trimmings for more flavor.
Make Pie or Pumpkin Butter. So this is the part where you might consider buying a smaller “pie” pumpkin, as the larger carving pumpkins are bred for looks, not taste. This way you could have a pumpkin that serves two purposes — a tiny jack-o-lantern and a nutritious, delicious dessert. Just don’t carve it until Halloween and puree up the flesh the next day, to make sure it’s fresh.
2. Feed it to wildlife
If you don’t want to eat it yourself, pumpkin makes a great snack for wildlife, says the National Wildlife Federation. Birds and other small mammals will be delighted to find the seeds scattered in your yard. Don’t salt or season them, NWF warns. Many backyard wild animals will eat pumpkin flesh if you cut it up into pieces for them. Porcupines will eat it whole.
3. Compost it.
If your pumpkin’s been carved for a few days and it’s starting to rot, composting is a far better option than the dump. Pumpkins are great additions to a compost pile. They’re are 90% water, which means they breakdown quickly. Here’s how to do it. Composting reduces or eliminates the methane released into the atmosphere when organic matter decomposes in landfills.