Young girl carving pumpkin

Pumpkin tips for Halloween

Fake pumpkins are more trick than treat. They trick you out of the most enjoyable thing about Halloween – and they trick us into using more polluting plastic.
Photo of Phil Byrne with dog
By Phil Byrne    |      Published:  18 Sep 2018    |      3 minute read

Most of the plastic that's ever been made still exists in the environment today, including in our soils and water. It isn't likely to disappear anytime soon either.

Programmes like David Attenborough's Blue Planet have shown that plastic pollution is a danger to our wildlife. And scientists have now discovered that plastic items are breaking down into tiny bits that can get into our oceans and even end up in our bodies.

3 pumpkins with artistic carved faces on show at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival 2011
Pumpkin art at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival 2011
Credit: Bob n Renee (CC BY 2.0)

Keep it real – but don't waste your pumpkin

Not buying plastic pumpkins is good for the planet. But are real pumpkins sustainable?

The UK bins 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin every Halloween – according to research from the Pumpkin Rescue campaign. That's the same weight as 1,500 double decker buses.

Here are our top tips for reducing waste, and making the most out of your pumpkin.

1. Start from seed and grow your own pumpkin

If you're not sure how, try these fantastic tips for growing your own pumpkin in your garden or allotment in the Spring.

What about planting a few Jack be Little, or some Baby Pam and Baby Bear? This sweet selection of squash will make for a tasty pumpkin patch.

2. Buy the perfect pumpkin

If you're buying, ask in the shop for a tasty and tough pumpkin.

Large piles of pumpkins of different colours with people standing around.
That's a lot of pumpkins.
Credit: istock

Why not buy from your local market or producer? They will probably have a bigger range of these beauties.

3. Scoop out as much as you can – and store it

Pumpkins last for a long time if you store them properly. Keep them out of direct sunlight and away from wooden surfaces.

Buying for Halloween? Your Jack-o'-lantern is full of tasty insides. Before carving, scoop out all the seeds and get out as much pumpkin flesh as you can with a large serving spoon.

Pumpkin seeds are a really tasty addition to soups and salads. Soak them in salted water for a couple of hours to get all the flesh off. Then dry them out or roast them before storing in an airtight container.

Fresh pumpkin will keep in the fridge for around 3 days. Frozen, it will last up to 8 months.

4. Make a delicious meal: easy pumpkin recipes

Pumpkins are so versatile in the kitchen.

They make a great base for warming winter soups. You can also roast them for your Sunday dinner. Pie is pretty tasty too - keep this easy pumpkin pie recipe on hand next Halloween.

Sweet pumpkin puree goes down well with younger kids. More-adventurous eaters might want to tackle a pumpkin curry – like Jamie Oliver's Bonfire Night curry. It's dairy and gluten free.

Pumpkin gnocchi is a great autumn variation on the Italian recipe. Need more inspiration? These savoury pumpkin recipes will get you started.

5. Compost your pumpkin

Put your pumpkin remains in your compost bin. Here are some tips on keeping your food-waste bin free from horrible smells.

Pumpkin facts for Halloween

Ever wondered why we buy pumpkins at Halloween? Or wanted to know a bit more about where pumpkins come from? Here's our top facts:

1. Halloween began around 2,000 years ago in Europe

It started as a celebration of the end of the harvest. But it wasn't named Halloween until the Christian tradition of praying for the dead on 'All Hallows' day became widespread. That day was 1 November – and it led to the 31 of October becoming known as 'All Hallows Eve'.

2. We didn't always carve pumpkins at Halloween

In the past it was more common to use a turnip or potato.

3. Each pumpkin has about 500 seeds

They're high in iron, and can be roasted to eat. The flowers that grow on pumpkin vines are also edible.

4. Pumpkins used to be known as 'large melons'

The first modern reference to a pumpkin came in the 17th century, when the fairy-tale Cinderella featured a large pumpkin that became an elegant coach.

5. The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 2,020 pounds.

When pumpkin pie was first made, it involved cutting off the tops of pumpkins, removing the seeds and filling the pumpkins with milk, spices and honey, then baking them in hot ashes.