This video makes a great point: it takes 5 months to grow a pumpkin from a seed to a large gourd, and a lot of resources. In the ever-diminishing window of time between ‘fall decor’ and ‘winter decor’, (it must be down to milliseconds), a lot of those hard-grown pumpkins wind up in the regular old trash.
Now, I love pumpkins, because they represent the ultimate in earth-based, non-plastic, beautiful seasonal decor. But the enormous resources that go into growing them just to have most of these food items end up in landfills is a sad drawback. This video suggests that the remedy should be to eat your pumpkin after you carve and light it. While I couldn’t agree more, I think there are some good reasons why it doesn’t usually go down this way:
Our typical ‘carving pumpkins’ are not good eating pumpkins: The most common variety of pumpkin grown and sold for carving is the ‘Connecticut Field’ variety. According to Amy Goldman’s The Compleat Squash, the Connecticut Field variety has been around in America since before European invasion, and became popular in the 19th century because of its high yields. You can grow 20 tons per acre on manured land in California. On the flip side, the fiberous, sturdy texture that makes this pumpkin a fast grower and good for carving does not make it a good eating pumpkin. To remedy this, we could expand our carving palate to include better tasting pumpkins. Some of these eating pumpkins, especically the Cucurbita moschata or ‘Cheese Pumpkin’ varieties (such as the Musquee de Provence) shown in the bottom left quadrant have very thick walls and can be a bit difficult to carve– but it’s still do-able. Cindarella varieties such as the Rouge Vif de’Etampes shown bottom right are truly delicious, but because they tend to be large, some freezing of the cooked pumpkin could be involved– and you might need to think of a carving design that works on a squat squash. For those that find it acceptable to have a smaller jack-o-lantern, there are several varieties that are delicious, including the rare ‘Winter Luxury Pie’ pumpkin shown top left, and the ‘Lakota’ Squash shown top right.
clockwise from left: Winter Luxury Pie, Lakota Squash,, Rouge Vif de’Etampes, Musquee de Provence
Sugar pie pumpkins, which are ubiquitiously sold at grocery stores for pie making, (and are also the ones that you get if you buy canned pumpkin) are probably the way to go if you are looking for something both carve-able and edible,and easy to find. You will have a smaller Jack-o-Lantern, but there is some charm to that for sure.
Is it really okay to eat a pumpkin after you have carved it?
In addition to the fact that our standard carving pumpkins are not delicious, there is the simple barrier of whether or not it’s gross to eat a pumpkin after you’ve carved it/ painted it/ let your children sneeze in it/ etc. I have some possible concerns about this– I mean, you let your kids go at this thing with disgusting hands, scraping bacteria all over the inside of the fruit, and then you essentially culture the bacteria overnight by putting in a nice warm candle and letting it slowly warm. That said, I have eaten many pumpkins after carving. Basic logic applies:
- If you use a real candle, choose a beeswax one rather than a comercially-scented parafin one that could contaminate the flavor of your pumpkin
- Remove wax prior to roasting
- If you paint your pumpkin, try washing off the paint prior to roasting. Scoop out the flesh and avoid using any paint-tainted skin.
- Roast the Jack-o-Lantern as soon as practically possible– this is especially important in warmer places where mold and rot sets in quickly after carving.
- Cut out yucky parts prior to roasting.
How to Roast: Follow these guidelines for roasting pumpkins: Cut pumpkin in sections, roast on oiled pan (skin up or skin down) at 350- 375 degrees F for ~ 45min to 1 hour or until it is soft when poked with a fork. Scrape out flesh. If you roast a standard ‘Conecticut Field’ pumpkin, consider pressing roasted flesh into a seive to squeeze out excess moisture before using.
Pumpkin Roasting and Recipe Links:
- Roasting directions and recipe for Spicy Carribean Pumpkin Curry (Columbo al Girumon)
- Moroccan-Inspired Stuffed Squash
- Eating Lakota Squash (stuffed squash with sage)
- Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe from Eating Well (we often make a vegetarian variety of this)
Finally, if you don’t manage to eat the pumpkin this year, compost it! Just remember to take out the seeds first (and eat them instead!)