How you can halt the horror of Halloween pumpkin waste

Britain wasted enough edible pumpkin in 2016 to make a bowl of soup for everyone in the country.

Research by Uniliver and environmental charity Hubbub revealed the total number of pumpkins discarded last Halloween was a shameful 15 million. A third of those were dumped directly into landfill sites rather than recycled in food bins or compost heaps.

Five million pumpkins rotting in landfill produces methane, contributes to the production of greenhouse gases and is of significant environmental harm.

However, this careless behaviour is made more distasteful against a backdrop of food poverty faced by 8.4 million people in the UK – that’s equivalent to the population of London struggling to put food on the table for their families.

This unnecessary waste is a disgrace.

A significant factor is, of course, the business practice of supermarkets and the food industry. However, we – the public – have a role to play. We can stop this horror.

Part of the problem is the perception of pumpkin. In contrast to America, whose obsession with the orange flesh of the native gourd is lining the pockets of food industry executives and farmers, the British public is not so taken. In the same research referenced, half of the adults asked did not consider pumpkin as food.

Half of those who took part in the survey said they did not know how to cook pumpkin. However, the majority of people who had tasted it agreed they enjoy it – soup came top of the list in pumpkin dishes.

Why then do so many not use Halloween pumpkins in the kitchen? It’s not difficult and you can have both a spooky lantern and a Halloween meal as this video from Esme Traverzo shows.

Esme Traverzo, YouTube

The issue isn’t helped by the quality of pumpkins the supermarkets sell. The flesh isn’t flavourful but it’s not inedible. Bang some sugar and spice into the mix and you can get the filling of a sweet pumpkin pie that will at least pass for a Halloween treat. It’s not going to blow your taste buds away, but it has to be better than tossing the lot in the bin.

As you might guess, I’m going suggest another approach. Grow your own.

Why grow your own pumpkins?

Growing your own pumpkins is so rewarding. It’s also great fun to grow them with children. I know I bang on about it, but as with all grow your own crops, the key benefit is variety. Many are beautiful and some, bloomin’ gruesome if you want to keep with the Halloween theme.

Importantly, there is a wide selection with fantastic flavour. If you want some inspiration, check out Beryl’s guest post on Gardens, weeds and words.

 courtesy of @bohoraspberry – Instagram

How to grow pumpkins

Unless you’re trying to grow a giant, I’d argue now is the perfect time to get some pumpkin seeds sown.

The spring is well underway and the longer daylight hours and warming temperatures is a positive contributing factor to successful germination and continuing growth. Pumpkins will not tolerate cold weather and with the last frost dates around the corner for many of us, a barrier to pumpkin growing triumph is removed. There’s still plenty of time for them to mature.

Sow pumpkins seeds on their sides in small 7.5cm (3-) pots

If you don’t have an allotment or a large garden, you can still join in the fun. If you choose the right variety, you can grow vertically in pots.

In the decisions we make, we can make a difference. Use food as food. Grow your own pumpkins this year, you won’t be disappointed.

Over to you. If you are growing pumpkins this year, I’d love to hear what varieties you have chosen. I’d also love to hear your recommendations for using pumpkin in the kitchen. Let me know in the comments below.

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12 thoughts on “How you can halt the horror of Halloween pumpkin waste

  1. Great post! I had no idea how many pumpkins got wasted and fully admit ive never tried cooking up pumpkins myself (despite having grown many over the years…. now i feel bad!) Ive eaten some lovely soups though
    We used to grow a lot of Uchiki Kuri for the restaurant, apparently a very tasty one 🙂

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    1. I guessed there was waste. Until reading the research I never imagined the level though. It’s shocking! I love pumpkin and squash. They do need additional ingredient though. Spice is key whether savoury or sweet. Lovely to have you over 😊

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  2. Love pumpkin soup! Usually just base it on a Jamie Oliver recipe. We’re trying a pumpkin called invincible this year on the Quest For Veg plot. It has a blue skin which looks amazing although the flesh is the usual colour. I just hope it tastes as good as it looks!

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    1. I’m a soup lover too. Pumpkin and squash love a bit of spice. Look forward to seeing how that pumpkin turns out for you both. The variety of colour and texture of pumpkins is tremendous isnt it? I’m growing Turks turban and Old boar white. Also a squash -Honey bear

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  3. I tried cooking one of those Tescos pumpkins that they pile up like footballs by the entrance. It was truly horrible (so bitter, it tasted like I was eating a chemical soup).
    I imagine those are purely grown for carving.
    Although very wasteful as a food source, at least they do biodegrade, unlike most of the plastic clutter associated with our commercialised festivals.
    And there is an element of creativity, that anyone can afford. I like the candle thing. It’s the softer, kinder “earthier” end of a Halloween crescent that has got out of control.

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  4. Supermarket pumpkins are truly awful to cook with. Winter Luxury Pie is my favourite homegrown pumpkin variety as when roasted the flesh is wonderfully smooth and sweet. As the name suggests, they’re perfect for making homemade pumpkin pie with.

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  5. Thanks for the mention Richard, that’s v kind. I’ve never eaten a supermarket pumpkin but if they taste anything like Kakai squash I will happily consign them to the compost heap! And there are so MANY tasty varieties to grow too. As an alternative to pumpkin pie there is the lovely velvety pumpkin/squash creme caramel from David Lebovitz http://www.davidlebovitz.com/maple-pumpkin-flan-recipe/ It’s a delight if you don’t overbake and can get the caramel done – took me 4 goes, but I’d never made caramel before! (If you overbake it’s still tasty, just rather, erm, solid.)

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    1. Yes. I think you are right Beryl. I think I was pushing my luck asking people to eat the stuff. It’s a huge problem though and compost is better than nothing. I don’t buy them. Part of the issue is getting people to embrace pumpkin as a dish. Supermarkets might respond with better edible pumpkin. I think there is an opportunity for many to give growing their own a go. Even mini ones in small spaces. Your post is an excellent reference. I do like sweet pumpkin dishes. Tis the right season for them 😊

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  6. It doesn’t help that most supermarkets sell pumpkins labelled as not edible, or for carving, rather than suggesting they have a culinary use. I make curried pumpkin soup out of them and with the right spices and some onion it tastes good, I wish more people would do it. I will try to grow my own this year though!

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  7. Thank you for this – we don’t actually grow our own pumpkins but then we don’t buy one for Hallowe’en either. We buy them to cook and eat. I agree that it’s a sinful waste to use any food as decoration and then just discard it. On eof our neighbours had two sitting on a table in the front garden (maybe because his two young daughters were visiting for a couple of days) but he didn’t even bother to discard them; they sat there slowly disintegrating for several weeks!

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