Carving jack-o-lanterns is an centuries-old tradition that originates in Irish lore but today is ubiquitous with Halloween. About 44% of Americans polled in 2019 said they planned to purchase a pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern, which means likely hundreds of millions of pumpkins carved in different, creative ways will be sitting on porches around the country this Halloween.
But what happens when Halloween is over and your jack-o-lantern is looking a little droopy? Do all those pumpkins just end up in the landfill?
Pumpkins are as versatile as they are delicious and can be repurposed in many different ways once you’re done with them. Here are some eco-friendly things you can do with your old Halloween pumpkins.
Let local wildlife have it
One thing you can do with your old jack-o-lantern is actually nothing at all: just leave it someplace in your yard. Local wildlife, like birds and squirrels, will have a nice time chowing down on your old, carved pumpkin.
Feed it to chickens
If you have chickens or really any kind of poultry or know someone who does, your old jack-o-lantern can make for a delicious chicken snack! Pumpkins are loaded with vitamins A, B, C, E, and zinc. Not just that, but some chicken farmers swear that pumpkin is an effective dewormer, helping keep chickens healthy. Maybe a pumpkin for eggs trade is in order!
Like all organic, plant-based food waste, your pumpkin will easily break down in your compost heap. We would suggest making sure that the seeds have all been removed from the pumpkin before composting (unless you want pumpkins growing out of your heap!) A pumpkin can take a while to compost, but if you chop it up into smaller pieces, it shouldn’t take nearly as long to decompose.
If you don’t have a compost heap but still want to dispose of your old jack-o-lantern in an eco friendly way, you can simply bury it. Microbes and other critters in the soil will set to work eating up your old pumpkin and turning it into rich soil.
Harvest the seeds
If you haven’t carved your pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern, now is a good time to cut it open and pull out the guts. Pumpkin seeds are delicious and nutritious. Pumpkin seeds are low in carbs, high in protein and fat, and are a good source of iron and calcium.
Make a pumpkin puree
Once you’ve harvested your pumpkin’s seeds, you can make a puree out of the rest of it. It’s not hard to make a puree, simply quarter the pumpkin, lay it skin-down in a baking dish filled with about a cup of water and bake for 30-45 minutes at 400 degrees F. A knife should be able to easily cut into the flesh of the pumpkin. Remove the roasted pumpkin from the skin and process in a food processor until smooth. Voila! Pumpkin puree.
Make a pumpkin planter
This works best with a pumpkin not carved for a planter as well. Pumpkins make excellent temporary planters. Just cut the top off, remove the seeds, and drill a small hole in the bottom of the pumpkin for drainage. Fill with potting soil and plant your favorite seasonal plants inside!
Keep it a little longer
Pumpkins are ubiquitous with the harvest season, and that season really isn’t over until around Thanksgiving (US) toward the end of November. If you haven’t carved your pumpkin at all, it should be able to last another month or two as a harvest season decoration. Keep it for a little while longer, then refer to one of our other ideas for reusing your old pumpkin.