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.
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.