Halloween pumpkins, also known as jack-o-lanterns, are a type of pumpkin known as carving pumpkin. Although they are usually labeled as carving pumpkins in grocery stores, Halloween pumpkins are perfectly edible. When cooked correctly, the right carving pumpkin might actually turn out to be delicious.
However, it is important to note that these pumpkins are not grown to be cooked. They have been bred to be large, have a flat bottom, robust skin, and are filled with less flesh than regular pumpkins.
Halloween pumpkins tend to be more fibrous and watery than other pumpkin varieties. As such, they may not taste as great in traditional pumpkin recipes such as pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, etc.
If you intend to use fresh pumpkin in a recipe, you should go for pie pumpkin in a grocery store instead of Halloween pumpkin.
Pie pumpkins have been bred for consumption and are used specifically for baking. They are very dense and are darker in color, making them ideal for baking. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins, however, have plenty of seeds that are great for roasting.
Which part of the Halloween pumpkin can I eat?
All parts of the pumpkin are edible apart from its stalk. Pumpkin skin is also edible, but this depends on the variety. Smaller pumpkin varieties such as onion squash tend to have delicious edible skin. Large varieties such as Halloween pumpkins have tough skin and though it’s edible, the taste is less than appealing.
The skin of some varieties such as butternut squash is also edible, but this depends on personal preferences. Pumpkins are a great source of vitamins A and C, iron, and riboflavin.
Pumpkin flesh is attached to the skin. To get to the flesh, you need to peel away the skin. The flesh of large pumpkin varieties such as Halloween pumpkin is best suited for curries and soups. The flesh of smaller pumpkin varieties and gourds is perfect for pies, cakes, and bread. However, they can also be used to make soups. The flesh of smaller pumpkin varieties tends to pack a flavor. They are also less watery and fibrous.
2. Pumpkin fibers
Pumpkin fibers are the stringy slimy stuff found in the middle of the pumpkin. Believe it or not, this part is also edible. Halloween pumpkin and other large pumpkin varieties tend to have plenty of fibres.
3. Pumpkin seeds
Once you finish carving your jack-o-lantern, do not throw away the seeds. Pumpkin seeds can be roasted and eaten as a healthy convenient snack. They are also tasty in soups and salads. They are wonderfully nutritious and rich in zinc. They are also known antioxidants that will have a positive impact on your health. Unlike Halloween candy that has a lot of calories, pumpkins are super healthy.
How to cook a Halloween pumpkin
1. Make pumpkin stock
Halloween pumpkins can be used to make pumpkin stock. Pumpkin stock makes a rich base for pumpkin risotto, pumpkin soup, or fall chowders. Homemade pumpkin stock can be made using the pumpkin fibers curved out of your jack-o-lantern. Instead of throwing them away, you can use the fibers to make delicious soup!
To cook the pumpkin fibers, put them in a big stockpot and add plenty of water. Boil the mixture to make a thin broth. Strain the broth and then add mulling spices to enhance the taste. The pumpkin broth can also be used as a base for soups by adding vegetable trimmings such as onion, celery, carrot, fennel, garlic, and mushrooms. Add a bay leaf or two, add more water, and let the broth simmer for about an hour, stirring a few times.
2. Roast pumpkin seeds
Large varieties of pumpkins such as jack-o-lanterns tend to have plenty of seeds. Instead of getting rid of them, you could roast them into nutritious and delicious Halloween snacks.
To roast pumpkin seeds, separate them from pumpkin fibers and rinse them well. Put the seeds on a flat tray and leave them to dry. Once they are dry, apply the seeds with a little olive oil or butter and then sprinkle them with salt. Put the tray in the oven and roast the seeds at 300 degrees until they turn golden brown. This should take approximately 45 minutes.
You can use the pumpkin seeds to make a tasty pumpkin seed pesto, or as a crunchy topper for hummus or guacamole.
How To Store Halloween pumpkins
Pumpkins are quite hardy and can be stored to be eaten later. To prepare pumpkin flesh for storage, carve your pumpkin and take out the insides. Separate the flesh from the seeds and fibres. Dice the flesh and then steam the bits of pumpkin before freezing them for another day. Steamed pumpkin flesh will last a few days in the fridge.
Once your carved Halloween pumpkin has been sitting around a while, its face will start to droop and it will become unsafe for consumption. If you have a Halloween pumpkin that wasn’t carved, it will last quite a while. They are best stored in a cool dry place on top of a towel. This is because when a pumpkin starts turning bad, it will first begin to get soft on the bottom and then start leaking liquid. The towel helps to protect your floor from the leaking liquid.
How To Dispose of a Halloween pumpkin
Unfortunately, you cannot always save or reuse all of your Halloween pumpkins. If your Halloween pumpkin has already been curved and has been outside for an evening or two, it is best to assume that it is not safe for consumption. Do not cook it. If you can’t eat your pumpkin, the best way of disposing of it is to add it to a compost heap or in your food waste caddy.
How did candy corn become a part of Halloween?
Candy corn became part of Halloween traditions because of the Americans. This, however, did not happen right away. As a result of a great wave of migrations from different European countries into the continent, the spookiness of Halloween traditions was slowly being replaced with more wholesome traditions. One of these wholesome traditions was trick-or-treating where the main candy being served was candy corn. Nowadays, people serve all sorts of candy, including vegan Halloween candy.
Making vegetable lanterns is an old Halloween tradition dating back to Great Britain and Ireland where vegetables such as turnips, beets, and potatoes were curved. Pumpkins, however, became the preferred vegetable for curved lanterns in America since they were much better for carving and illuminating than other vegetables.