The leaves are falling, the air is crisp and pumpkin spice is the talk of the town. It’s officially fall and the one time of the year we really think about pumpkins. Do you carve them or bake them into pies? Do you feel compelled to buy them for your porch, but then wonder what to do with them? Here are 10 ways to repurpose pumpkins!
1. When you carve pumpkins, save and roast the seeds
Similar to peeling a pomegranate, there’s a trick to gathering pumpkin seeds. When you clean the pumpkin for carving, place the pumpkin guts—seeds and all—into a bowl of water. Separate the seeds with your hands and they will neatly float to the top. Remove the seeds, wash them and pat dry. Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil and salt or the seasoning of your choice. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes, stir and bake for another ten minutes. Enjoy!
2. Make your own sprouted pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are high in nutrients like magnesium and zinc, plus they’re a delicious source of protein and antioxidants.[i] Boost the nutritional benefit of pumpkin seeds by sprouting them first. Because the seeds are changing into a plant, all the nutrients that are reserved to help grow the plant become available during the sprouting process. Research shows sprouting the seeds first results in higher protein content, higher quantities of certain amino acids, an increase in B vitamins and numerous other health benefits.[ii] They are also more digestible and have a smoother texture. Just place the washed, raw sees in a jar with warm water and a pinch of salt. Cover with a towel and soak for 1-2 days. Eat raw or bake using the method above.
3. Stir up some vegetable stock
Leftover pumpkin guts are great for gardens, but if you don’t have a compost bin, it’s often destined for the garbage. This year, try using it as the base for soups and stews instead! Remove the seeds and toss the remaining pumpkin in a stock pot with a little olive oil. Then, add onions—skin and all—or maybe carrot tops. It’ll all strain out so don’t overthink it! Try prepping all your veggies for a stew and use the leftover bits to season the stock. Toss it all in with the pumpkin, cover with plenty of water and simmer for about an hour. Strain it and add your prepped veggies, or freeze it for later.
4. Make pumpkin bowls
Now that you’ve turned guts into glory in the form of vegetable stock, add a seasonal touch by serving it in a real pumpkin bowl. Small, sugar pumpkins autumn-ize your table, and when it’s time to change the centerpiece, roast them to serve up some fall fun. Use the little ones for soup bowls or use a big pumpkin as a serving bowl. Just cut the top off to form a bowl and roast in a glass baking dish at 350 degrees. Check it after about 45 minutes. The skin will darken and become easy to piece when it’s ready.
5. Make pumpkin purée
After you’ve served your soup, set aside your serving-bowl pumpkin—the one no one has eaten from—and make purée. Scoop out the roasted pumpkin and blend using a food processor. Voila! There are no BPA-lined cans to worry about and it’s a lot cheaper than canned purée. You can also skip the bowl part and just roast the pumpkins. Simply pierce the shell of a whole pumpkin to ventilate and roast as indicated above. Then, let it cool before you blend the pumpkin.
6. Bake a pie
This one is low-hanging fruit. And yes, pumpkins are technically fruits, even though they aren’t sweet, just like tomatoes and avocados. Most of us have a family favorite pumpkin-pie recipe that will help you use up your pumpkin purée, but if you’re looking to switch things up, try this vegan pumpkin pie recipe from Loving It Vegan.
7. Add some crunch to pumpkin bread
Use your pumpkin purée to make pumpkin bread. Recipes for this fall favorite vary almost as much as the color outside, so experiment! Then, make it your own by adding pumpkin seeds to the mix or by sprinkling them on top before you bake it.
8. Treat your skin to pumpkin body scrub
If your skin is feeling as dry and flakey as the fallen leaves, try this quick pumpkin body scrub with ingredients in your kitchen! Combine a cup of organic sugar, a teaspoon of nutmeg, and a teaspoon of cinnamon with a ¼ cup of your homemade pumpkin purée. In the shower, rub on in a circular motion and rinse. Follow with your favorite plant-based oil or moisturizer.
9. Don’t forget your furry friends
Pets like pumpkins, too! Cooked pumpkin purée and roasted, ground pumpkin seeds are really good for cats and dogs. Pumpkin helps with digestion, fends off fur balls, and can even improve their skin and coat.
10. Extend the season and make a Thanksgiving centerpiece
If you’re not quite ready to bid adieu to autumn’s orbs, extend their season by adding a decorative touch. Try painting your pumpkins using low-VOC paints. Metallic colors or whites will carry you well into winter and add a seasonal touch to your table. As Thanksgiving approaches, cut the top off your pumpkin, add water and show off your fall blooms. Try using mums and sunflowers, or mix it up with sumac or red maple leaves. Add painted twigs if you painted your pumpkin, or leave the twigs in their natural state and let all the fall colors speak for themselves.
Fall is filled with color, and the bright-orange beauty of pumpkins make them the perfect icons for the season. Have some fun with them and maximize their benefits while you still can. The seasons will change again before you know it!
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