Pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns are virtually synonymous with Halloween, but the utility of these decorations can extend well beyond this week’s festivities. Rather than leaving these pumpkins to spoil on the stoop, there are other ways to reuse pumpkins after Halloween, ranging from fall recipes to home spa experiences with a seasonal twist.
What to do with pumpkins after Halloween
Fall recipes, spa treatments and composting
In 2020, the University of Texas at Dallas published a list of ways to reuse pumpkins after Halloween such as toasting the seeds for a seasonal treat, recipes like pumpkin-based butter, ravioli, bread and soups; other noted options include transforming the “pumpkin guts” into a body scrub and other spa treatment essentials.
“Raw pumpkin has some amazing enzymes that can rejuvenate the skin and is also packed with lots of antioxidants, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C,” reads a portion of the post. “You can use any leftover pumpkin guts to create a body scrub or pumpkin face mask for spa night.”
Aside from seasonal decor, pumpkins pack plenty of functionality, but much of this utility often goes untapped. Of the 900,000 tonnes of pumpkins produced each year, the majority of this material is expected to be “trashed, rather than used as food or composted,” according to a 2019 World Economic Forum post.
Instead of tossing a post-Halloween pumpkin in the trash, adding to the medley of municipal waste destined for the landfill, people can opt to dispose of unwanted pumpkins at home.
“Finding ways to repurpose your pumpkins like composting is a great way to give them a second life and keep them out of the landfill,” said Gary Rasp, a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
These sentiments were echoed by Greta J. Calvery, a spokesperson for Waste Management, who said “the key to having a sustainable Halloween is to find a creative way to turn the pumpkin into something else.”
In the backyard, gardeners could consider burying their unwanted pumpkins after Halloween to fortify soils. As a Waste Management post explains, burying pieces of the pumpkin in shallow holes throughout a garden and then covering these areas with soil will eventually break down the pumpkin, adding nutrients to the area.
Interestingly, even after Halloween night, these carved pumpkins may still pack a fright factor for some. Recyclers, beware.
“Don’t scare your drivers or recyclers by putting icky stuff in your recycle bin,” Calvery said. “If you have a left-over jack-o’-lantern, be sure and remove the candle inside and toss it into your compost bin.”
If folks aren’t “into composting,” Calvery suggested people use the app NextDoor to see if any of their neighbors have a compost bin. If folks strike out with the neighbors, Calvery said people could consider donating the pumpkins to the local zoo. (It turns out some animals also enjoy the occasional pumpkin treat, as can be seen in Oregon Zoo’s video from the “Squishing of the Squash” event, where elephants stomp on pumpkins and eat the smashed pieces.)
Support local wildlife and pollinators
Texas is one of the top states for pumpkin harvesting, producing roughly 100 million pounds of pumpkins in 2020, according to the USDA. Situated in the South Plains of Texas, the city of Floydada is known as the pumpkin capital of the U.S., due to the area’s bountiful annual pumpkin production.
A spokesperson for the Floydada Chamber of Commerce said one of the best ways to repurpose a pumpkin after Halloweens is to “find friends with animals,” explaining that a host of farm animals including cows, horses, donkeys, chickens, goats and sheep “love pumpkins, and they are supposedly a ‘natural dewormer.’”
“I do this personally and I even have a little pumpkin patch now from years of throwing pumpkins in the pasture,” the spokesperson said.
So long as pumpkins haven’t started to mold, these items may also be beneficial for people who keep chickens, according to a recent City of Austin article about reducing Halloween waste. But accessibility may be an issue.
“Pumpkins are a healthy source of vitamins, minerals, protein and calcium for chickens and they go crazy over them,” reads a portion of the post. “Just break the pumpkin in half so the chickens can get in there.”
The National Wildlife Federation created a list of options for people looking to repurpose a pumpkin after Halloween and support their local environments at the same time. These options include creating pumpkin feeders or nourishing local squirrels and birds with a so-called “snack-o-lantern.” (For a mental image of the latter, imagine a bisected pumpkin brimming with birdseed.)
Other NWF suggestions include scattering pumpkin seeds or adding them with existing birdfeeder mixes, planting the seeds to create a pollinator garden and cutting the pumpkin into smaller pieces for “local critters” in the area.
Written by R. Dallon Adams