As we approach that spooky time of the year, here is a scary thought for you; of the huge numbers of pumpkins bought and carved each year a large number will go to waste and take some twenty years to decompose in landfill. Further more when they end up in landfill they emit methane gas – a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
Maybe that should be enough to stop us picking our pumpkins this autumn for displays and decorations – but hey, let’s not be party poopers and let us also remember that starting a pumpkin patch to grow seasonal squashes during harvest season is a great side business for a farmer.
As farmers seek to diversify in order to increase revenue, offering these sorts of events - think Easter Trials, Maize Mazes, Pumpkins Patches and Christmas on the Farm - can be very profitable, as well as promoting the farming products themselves.
Local Somerset farm, Palette and Pasture have planted 12 acres of squashes and gourds for us to meander and choose from to make our autumnal displays and to carve and decorate for Halloween. It is estimated that between half and two thirds of those will be picked by visitors.
So – two questions arise – what will happen to those left in the farmers' fields and perhaps more significantly what will happen to those in our windows or on our doorsteps?
Palette and Pasture have a game plan. Food charities are invited to take what they can use, sheep are then allowed into the pumpkin fields and along with birds and other wildlife will start to eat the remaining pumpkins. Afterwards, the remainder will be rolled – breaking down the pumpkins to provide nutrients for the soil – it’s a natural fertiliser ready for future crops.
With regards to the farming aspect, it acts as a profitable event for the farmer which visitors can enjoy and then is used in a sustainable way to fertilise the land as part of an arable crop system, gold star.
But, what about us? We return home red faced from our autumnal forage on the farm laden with squashes, we find the carving set in the back of cutlery drawer, and we sit around the kitchen table with pumpkin flesh and seeds flying left, right and centre! When our creations are made, we must stop and think – let’s not bin the mess on the table but instead let us think how we can sustainably use up and/or dispose of the orange mush!
Firstly, the flesh of the pumpkin, including the stringy bits of pumpkin flesh can be used in many recipes. For example, you can make Pumpkin Bread, along the lines of Banana Bread. Or alternatively, make Pumpkin Soup. It can also be sliced and diced into veggie stews or mashed with butter and a sprinkle of pepper to make a delicious vegetable side. If you are not ready to use it straight away, then pop it in the freezer to use later. Pumpkins and other squashes are very healthy – they are high in fibre and are a good source of certain vitamins, especially, vitamin A and C.
Secondly, don’t forget the seeds! Pumpkin seeds can be toasted in the oven – simply rinse them, and then spread them on a baking tray with some olive oil and roast them at 180C for 8 to 10 minutes. You can store in a jar and sprinkle on top of anything and everything – tasty and good for you as they provide a source of fibre and protein.
Finally, remember to chop and food compost any pieces of skin left after creating your works of art!
Then as October becomes November and we clear away our spooky scary masterpieces – again we must chop and food compost.
So, in summary pumpkin picking is fun, pumpkin displays are very aesthetically autumnal and pumpkin carving is a great activity with children old and young. Pumpkin flesh and seeds are a great healthy, nutritional, and yummy food, just dispose of the skin by chopping and composting.
With thanks to the very helpful Rachel at Palette and Pasture – if you’re local or visiting the area over October, pop by - pick a pumpkin and maybe treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream with pumpkin sauce swirl or maybe a pumpkin flavoured sorbet!
Enjoy the autumn vibe folks and remember - use pumpkins responsibly!
Caroline Bowen-Thomas is a freelance copy-writer and proof reader based in Frome. She's the creator behind Frome With a View, an Instagram account that celebrates all things fun to see and do in and around 30 minutes of the town of Frome in Somerset.