I like to celebrate Halloween as much as anybody else, but I grimace at the thought of throwing away a perfectly good pumpkin after using it for only a few days as a decoration.
Americans buy more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkins at Halloween, and the vast majority of those end up in the trash. But at this cheapskate's house, we eat our jack-o'-lantern — every last bit of it.
See also: Don't throw that away!
While some varieties of pumpkins are specifically grown to be eaten and are a little meatier and tastier (including sweet Jack Be Littles, Cheese Pumpkins, sugar pumpkins and some delicious heirloom varieties), any commonly available pumpkin is edible.
Pumpkins are a true American vegetable, a favorite of Native Americans before becoming a staple of early European explorers and settlers in the New World. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, pumpkins are packed with beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer.
Best of all, at Halloween (and immediately after Halloween) you can usually buy pumpkins for less than half a buck a pound. If you're buying a pumpkin specifically for eating, the smaller ones are usually the best. If you're going to use it as a jack-o'-lantern, as well, you can eat or freeze some of the pumpkin when you carve it, and then pickle the remaining rind when Halloween is over, provided that it's still in good shape.
Here's how to eat all of your jack-o'-lantern:
Get Creative With the Seeds
Toasted pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack, filled with magnesium, zinc, manganese, iron, copper and protein. They're also great as a nut substitute in bread, salads, muffins and other recipes.
- Remove the seeds and rinse them in water to get rid of the stringy inner membrane.
- Let them dry on a paper towel.
- Flavor with coarse salt for a traditional flavor, or let your imagination and spice rack run wild. Some of my favorite options for flavoring seeds include: Cajun seasonings, ginger powder, pumpkin pie spice, garlic salt, curry powder, chili powder, cinnamon, vinegar and salt.
- After you've seasoned them, bake the seeds on a lightly oiled cookie sheet (single layer thick) in a 250-degree oven for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Or try my preferred method of cooking them in a spray-oiled skillet over medium heat on the stove top, stirring and shaking constantly for about five minutes.
- Store in airtight containers.