Carving Pumpkins: What to do with your Seeds and Flesh

Submitted by on October 18, 2011 – 2:26 pm2 Comments
pumpkin with seeds

Pumpkin overload? Nah... roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious over ice cream or in a homemade trail mix.

It seems that every year as my son grows bigger and bigger, the sizes of the pumpkins he chooses for jack-o-lanterns grow along with him. In the beginning, our little forays to pumpkin farms yielded mostly a few stray pieces of hay from rides on the farm tractor, a little squirt of hand sanitizer after spending some quality time petting the baby farm animals, and a couple manageable pumpkins my young son could lift by himself. Sometimes we’d throw in a few gourds—“baby pumpkins”—to decorate with magic markers (for do-overs).

But now, between school field trips to the pumpkin patch and excursions with our neighbors and friends, our family of three somehow ends up with five or more pumpkins annually of varying size (big to gargantuan). And every year, I am faced with the ever-growing dilemma of what to do with all the leftover pumpkin flesh and seeds.

(Read: How to pick the perfect Pumpkin)

A little bit seedy

Luckily, my family and my son’s neighborhood buddies are all suckers for roasted pumpkin seeds—we can barely keep a fresh batch longer than 24 hours. Though we usually make simple roasted seeds with olive oil and salt, there are a myriad of recipes for savory and sweet seeds. For a little spicy flavor, you can add some curry powder  or cayenne to the mix. Candied seeds, using brown sugar, are guaranteed to fly out the door. If you manage to stash some away for dessert time, sprinkling a handful over a scoop of vanilla bean or pumpkin ice cream is absolutely divine. And roasted pumpkin seeds are a great mix-in to any trail mix or homemade granola.

But what about the larger part of this equation of forced pumpkin abundance—the flesh?  The problem is that usually carving pumpkins are not very good for baking, as they are pretty watery and tasteless and rather stringy. And once the candle drippings, smoke and scorching accumulate within your carved pumpkin—well, the compost bin is probably the best place for it afterwards.

A creative cure

The good news is that carving pumpkin quality is getting better and better, and you may be able to find a sizable, yet tasty pumpkin. The key is not to choose the biggest pumpkin on the lot. Better yet, look for a large pie pumpkin, which will have a smoother, sweeter flesh than most carving pumpkins.

A good strategy is to let your children each choose one big pumpkin to use for their jack-o-lanterns and choose a couple of nice pie pumpkins for yourself. Throw in a few “baby pumpkin” gourds to use as further decoration for some of the more extreme pumpkin carving ideas (see below for links).

While the kids are scooping out their pumpkins, be sure to harvest the seeds for roasting. If you are a person who cannot stand to see any food wasted, save their carved-out pieces for pureeing to use in sauces as a vitamin-packed thickener.

As another Halloween night passes and the kids have emptied, sorted and inventoried their bulging bags of candy. you can gaze upon your delicious pie pumpkins and revel in the coming pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and spicy pumpkin soup that will soon grace your table.

 (Read: No-Junk Halloween Treats Kids will love)

Carving ideas

Here are some great pumpkin carving websites, from simple family friendly ideas to more challenging sculpting patterns for older or more experienced carvers:

For younger kids and family-friendly Halloween ideas: DisneysFamilyFun

Creative and outrageous carvings: ExtremePumpkins

To get a spark and just some great pumpkins: ChicagoTribunes 25 InspirationalPumpkins

For simple, classic carvings and decorating ideas: MarthaStewartsPumpkinIdeas

Family fun ideas for all ages: BetterHomes & GardensPumpkinCarvingIdeas

Recipes

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
  1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients.
  2. Spread pumpkin seed mixture on a baking sheet evenly in one layer.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes; mix carefully and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown and you hear an occasional popping noise.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Blot excess oil with paper towels. Serve immediately.

Candied Pumpkin Seeds

  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients.
  2. Spread pumpkin seed mixture on a baking sheet evenly in one layer.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes; mix carefully and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown and you hear an occasional popping noise.
  4. Remove from oven and mix again to coat evenly. Spread on waxed paper to cool to warm. Serve immediately.
~Happy Pumpkin Carving!

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Categories: Guides, Healthy Meals and Activities for Kids

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