Photo by rjiva via flickr
Fall and winter are my favorite seasons. Everything good happens – the trees change, the weather gets colder, the holidays roll around, and pumpkin carving happens. We take it pretty seriously around our house. Not only is it an excuse to get elbow-deep into a pumpkin-y mess, it’s a perfect time to get creative. I’ve carved the gamut of interesting stuff – a scary pumpkin, an adorable baby pumpkin trio, a barfing pumpkin, a subtly carved image that appears only once it’s lit, and this year one of my projects was melting crayons on top of one to make a rainbow. Truly, the possibilities are endless. But, what do you do with all the extra stuff leftover from carving? I like to set a good example for my nephew, especially when crafting and trying new things, about recycling and using all the parts of something. The good news is, when you’re crafting with food, you can use almost everything.
There are roughly a billion recipes for pumpkin seeds in cookbooks and on the internet. My favorites are brown sugar or Cajun spice, but the basic roasting technique is:
a bunch of raw, whole pumpkin seeds gathered from however many pumpkins you carved, rinsed
2-4 tablespoons (depending on how many you have) butter, oil or substitute
a pinch of salt
desired seasonings (go wild!)
spread out on a pan evenly and roast in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 minutes, or until toasty
These are great on their own, or added to trail mix, cereal, granola, so on and so forth. Some people shell the seeds and roast just the green seeds themselves, but I find it seriously tedious and the shells toast up very nice. Experiment and find what you like – it’s a cheap, tasty, healthy snack.
Pumpkin “guts” – the part you usually throw away:
This is the slimy part that’s really fun to play with but generally useless otherwise. Until now! See, this part isn’t great to eat, but it’s really useful for its nutrients. Pumpkin is high in vitamins A and C, like other bright orange foods, and has a lot of zinc, as well as naturally hydrating cellulose. That means it works really well as a hair, face or body mask, wherever you choose to apply it. My preferred method is this:
Scoop all of the stringy, slimy bits into a bowl and make sure there are no seeds
skip cooking – it doesn’t really do anything besides deplete the nutrient content
add all of it into a blender or food processor
blend/puree until the consistency is very fine and smooth, or as close as you can get it
keep this puree in a Tupperware or jar and store it in the fridge
When you’re ready to use it, scoop out the appropriate portion size for your face, hair, or whatever, and add:
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon, or a generous squeeze, of lemon juice
For your face (or other skin, like your neck), apply it to clean, dry skin and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water. For your hair, apply it at your scalp and work outwards towards the end. Wrap it up in a warm, damp towel or a shower cap and let sit for 30 minutes. It works to hydrate and sooth your scalp, as well as make your hair shiny and clean from the acidity and vitamins. Rinse out with warm water (and shampoo, if you want) and enjoy!
Like I said before, pumpkins are actually very nutrient rich. Sadly, by the time it’s bee carved, lit up, and set outside for three weeks, it’s not likely to be edible anymore. Seriously, don’t try. That’s gross. Luckily, nature can still work its magic. If you compost, toss it into the pile and you’re all set. If you don’t, find a patch in your garden, backyard, or nearby wooded area and dig a hole about six inches deep. Toss your pumpkin in there and break it up with your shovel a little bit to help the process. Cover it with dirt and that’s it! It’ll decompose and help make the soil rich and fertile. Since the seeds have been taken out, you’re not in danger of an unruly pumpkin patch next year – just for helping the other plants nearby grow big and strong.