It’s a Halloween Pumpkin Palooza!
Ah yes, the season of ghastly ghouls and wicked haunts. There’s something quite spectacular in kicking off the holiday season with the eerie, the ominous and all things spooky. But where did Halloween traditions begin? Why do we carve pumpkins every year? Today, we will investigate!
Plus, we’ll cover some ideas of what to do with your leftover pumpkin, including those ooey gooey pumpkin guts!
Where did Jack O’ Lanterns originate?
The myth of the Jack O’ Lantern has its roots in Irish folklore, with the tale of Stingy Jack. Jack was so stingy and so mischievous he got the Devil himself jealous! In a maniacal duel to prove who was more devious, Jack or the Devil, Jack dug himself in too deep. In attempting to out-trick the Devil, Jack made the Devil promise never to take his soul.
As a result, when Stingy Jack finally passed away, he was cast out from both heaven and refused from hell. The gloating Devil gave Jack a hollowed out turnip with an ember inside to light his way, “marking him a denizen of the netherworld.” All of Jack’s tricks found him destined to haunt the earth for eternity, with only a carved out turnip lamp to guide his trek through infinite darkness.
Yes, I said turnip. Pumpkins were not a common crop in Ireland, and so, as the original story goes, The Devil gave Jack a turnip. When settlers came to America, they found the pumpkin (which is actually a fruit, not a vegetable) a much better vessel to carve and light from within, as a means of keeping the spirit of Stingy Jack away from their homes.
The name Jack O’ Lantern is really a shortened version of “Jack of the Lantern” a reference to Stingy Jack’s dismal fate to wander the earth, undead, illuminated only by a glowing root vegetable.
For the full tale of Stingy Jack, check out this animated folk song!
What To Do with Leftover Pumpkin
This article from The Atlantic takes a deep-dive into exactly what happens to our pumpkins after we’re finished with our Halloween fun. According to the article, “every year, more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkin get tossed out and left to rot in America’s landfills.” That’s about the same weight as 5,000 blue whales! That’s a lot of wasted pumpkin, and waste that can be prevented!
Food waste is one of the top contributors of harmful emissions. What we carve on our pumpkin, in the tradition of Stingy Jack, is just as important as what happens to our pumpkin in the end. Here are some ideas to put your Jack O Lantern scraps to good use.
Save and roast your pumpkin seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious snack! Simply set aside the seeds as you’re carving pumpkins to roast them later.
Here’s an easy recipe to follow to make your own pumpkin seeds at home from scratch. Eat roasted pumpkin seeds by themselves, on salad or sprinkled over your favorite fall soup!
Make pumpkin puree
Instead of using canned pumpkin to make all your favorite fall recipes (and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving) try making your own pumpkin puree out of your Jack O Lantern guts!
This post shows you how to easily make pumpkin puree, and provides additional ideas on how to efficiently use your Halloween pumpkins.
Plant those pumpkin guts
You know what I’m talking about! When you cut the “lid” off your pumpkin and begin scraping out all the stringy insides, with seeds wrapped precariously throughout. The easiest way to deal with them? Dig a shallow hole in your garden and plant them!
No need to rinse the stringy insides off the seeds, simply scoop and plop right into the ground. The insides of the pumpkin will naturally decompose into the dirt, providing extra nutrients for your seeds to start growing. Cover gently with a layer of dirt and water regularly to start your very own pumpkin patch.
Compost your pumpkin
If your pumpkin has turned and is no longer fit for consumption, the best solution is compost! It’s a simple, eco-friendly way to turn your waste into nutrient-rich garden dirt. Chop your pumpkin up into smaller pieces to speed up the compost process.
To learn more about composting, check out my article on starting a Zero Waste Kitchen.
What’s your favorite Halloween tradition or folktale? How do you plan on using your pumpkin scraps this year? Let me know in the comments below!