Halloween is nearly here and the shops are already bursting at the seams with piles of sumptuous, orange pumpkins just waiting to be taken home, carved and filled with a lit candle. Every year, millions of people all around the world enjoy the tradition of carving a pumpkin and placing it outside their front door as a welcoming sign to trick-or-treaters that sweets, chocolate and other delicious treats await inside. Some people go to great lengths to create, what can only be described as vegetable masterpieces, carving intricate designs and drilling pinholes to come up with spectacular designs.
But, all too soon it’s November 1st and the sensational pumpkin creation that looked so amazing just the night before now looks a bit sorry for itself. The eyes have drooped, a tooth has fallen off, the flesh is starting t be eaten by bugs and, if truth be told, it’s starting to a pong a little! Surely, that can’t be it for a pumpkin though? Surely, this plump, giant king of autumnal vegetables is destined for more than decoration and then the bin? It is indeed the fate of many a pumpkin, but with a little bit of culinary wizardry and a little bit of creative inspiration your Halloween pumpkin can be used for many great things, which is where The Art of Healthy Living can help! Here are our top tips for what to do with your leftover pumpkin:
Delicious Pumpkin Recipe Ideas
The health and nutritional benefits of pumpkin are truly amazing (read further down the article for more on this), but the so-called ‘guts’ of a pumpkin can all too often go to waste. When you sit down to carve your pumpkin, make sure you have a bowl at the side to capture everything that you scoop out and try to carve out as much hard flesh as you possibly can without going so far as to risk the structure caving in.
You will notice that there are four different parts to a pumpkin, all of which are edible:
- the outer skin/peel
- the seeds
- the hard, orange flesh
- the stringy, wet pulp
The hard, orangey yellow flesh of a pumpkin is perhaps the most versatile section, as it can be boiled or roasted and served as a vegetable side dish, it can be put into soups, smoothies and used in the infamous pumpkin pie. Some people have even been known to eat it raw, but I’m not sure we’d go that far! For us, the best thing to do with the hard flesh and soft pulp of a pumpkin is to cook it together, either by boiling with some water or roasting it for a richer, woodier flavour, and blending it down to make pumpkin puree. This can then either be used straightaway, in some of the recipe suggestions below, or portioned off (ice cube trays are fantastic for this) and frozen for a later date. Pumpkin puree is so incredibly versatile, that once you see the many different things you can do with it, you’ll wonder how you managed without it in your life.
You can use pumpkin puree in:
- Pumpkin hummus
- Pumpkin pancakes
- Pumpkin spread
- Pumpkin pesto
- Pumpkin muffins
- Pumpkin risotto
- Pumpkin spice latte
The list is endless. You can pretty much use pumpkin puree in any recipe; just let your imagination run wild!
Roasted pumpkin seeds are by far our favourite autumn snack and they are so easy to make. Firstly, scrape all of the seeds from the pumpkin and rinse in cold water to remove all of the stringy flesh. Spread the seeds evenly onto a baking tray and coat with a thin layer of oil. You then need to decide whether you want to make sweet or savoury seeds. We personally love sweet pumpkin seeds that have been coated in a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon, but you can also try chilli flakes, sea salt, curry powder…the choice is yours. Once the seeds have been fully coated in the oil and flavour mixture put in a 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 oven for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then store in an airtight container. The seeds taste great on their own or they can be sprinkled over salads, risottos, porridge or desserts.
So, all that’s left is the peel, what on earth can be done to this hard, leather-like skin? Why, turn it into pickle of course! Pumpkin skin pickle is a fantastic way of using up the part of a pumpkin that quite often gets overlooked. It makes a great accompaniment to Indian dishes or to add bite to salads and sandwiches.
It’s a few days after Halloween and you’ve done as much as you can with your pumpkin, but it is now starting to look worse for wear and if you don’t get rid of it soon you’re going to have pest control on your back. Surely, it is time for the bin?
STOP RIGHT THERE!
Because, no, there are still things you can do with your pumpkin, even though it has started to decompose. Instead of putting your pumpkin in the bin, put it onto the compost. It may have started to rot, but it is still intensely rich in nutrients that will do wonders for your garden. Just make sure you remove any spilt candle wax, as this will not break down, and remove any stray pumpkin seeds, otherwise your compost bin may end up resembling a pumpkin patch come next year!
Or, how about helping out our feathered friends by turning your pumpkin into a bird feeder? With winter approaching, birds need as much help as they can get when it comes to finding food. This works best with smaller pumpkins, as the larger ones are too heavy to hang. Simply tie some string to four sides of the pumpkin, stick in some twigs to act as perches and either hang as it is, or fill with bird seed or homemade fat balls.
If you have managed to not eat all of the seeds from your pumpkin, you could always save some to plant and grow a new one for next year. Make sure you wash them and remove all of the flesh, thoroughly dry them and then store in a dark, dry place until they are ready to be planted. Pumpkins like warmer weather, so it is best to wait until April to mid May before planting. Ideally seeds should be sown in pots and kept indoors, until the temperature rises and the plants have started to sprout. Then transfer outside in a spacious area with good drainage.
Pumpkin Beauty Tips
Pumpkins aren’t just beneficial to our insides, they can also make an outstanding difference to the way we look. Vitamins A, C, and E and the zinc that is found in pumpkins are great for the skin and can leave your complexion positively glowing. Add brown sugar and a splash of milk to some pumpkin puree and then apply liberally to your face. Sit back, relax and let the nutrients from the pumpkin facemask absorb into your skin. L.A. skin expert and author, Narine Nikogosian, whose client list includes Jessica Alba and Charlize Theron, discusses the effectiveness of pumpkin when used as part of a beauty regime, in her new book Return to Beauty: Old-World Recipes for Great Radiant Skin. Pumpkins are also rich in beta-carotene and antioxidants, which help fight damaging free radicals and keeps skin hydrated and youthful. Pumpkin seeds, in particular, are having their time in the beauty spotlight; being touted as ‘the new coconut oil’. Pumpkin seed oil can be applied to hair in order to strengthen it, boost hair growth, hydrate hair follicles and leave your locks looking shiny and lustrous. You can even use pumpkin puree mixed with honey, lemon and pumpkin seed oil as a deep conditioning treatment – just remember to wash it all off thoroughly when you’re done, or risk smelling like soup!
Why Is Pumpkin So Good For Us?
One huge clue that helps point towards why pumpkin is so nutritionally good for us is its colour. Fruit and vegetables of an orange persuasion contain a form of carotene, which in a pumpkins case is alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. These are both incredible antioxidants that play a huge part in helping our bodies remain healthy. Carotene helps protect our eyes, boost our immune system, make our skin glow and has even been proven to help prevent heart disease, cancer and many of the degenerating signs of aging.
The recommended daily amount of dietary fibre for an adult is 18g and just 250g of pumpkin can give you 3g towards that figure. The high fibre content of pumpkins assists digestion, lowers bad cholesterol, controls blood sugar and can also aid weight loss. If you are watching your weight, then make sure you stock up on fresh pumpkin, because by its very nature pumpkin is low in fat and calories – 250g contains just 49 calories (about the same as an apple).
Just take a look at this list of all the good stuff found in a pumpkin:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
And that’s just the flesh, pumpkin seeds have their very own health benefits. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that the body converts into serotonin and then into melatonin, the so-called sleep hormone. So, if you struggle to get to sleep at night, nibbling some pumpkin seeds a few hours before bed is sure to have you snoring in no time. They have also been proven to make a significant difference in the symptoms of the menopause. Lorna Driver-Davies, Nutritionist at NutriCentre, explains, ‘Pumpkin seed oil is high in the polyunsaturated fatty acid omega 6, which is beneficial for the skin and hormone support in women’. The natural phytoestrogens found in pumpkin seed oil can decrease hot flushes, headaches, joint pains and other menopausal symptoms that many postmenopausal women experience. You only have to look at the nutritional content – 30g of protein, 110% daily amount of iron and no cholesterol, pumpkin seeds are tasty, healthy and should be regularly included as part of a balanced diet.
So, there you have it, absolutely loads of ideas to stop your Halloween pumpkin from going to waste with the added benefit of giving your garden, your face and hair and your tummy a treat.