According to OneGreenPlanet.org, the U.S. grows just under 2 billion pumpkins annually, most of which will end up in landfill. This is unacceptable! It’s far too late in the game for America to be throwing any food into landfills at all, never mind food that is chiefly grown to be ornamental.
The issue is our mentality: we don’t really think of a jack-o-lantern pumpkin as food. When we think of eating pumpkins, its usually in the form of pie, and that’s often going to be made from a can of processed, pureed pumpkin meat.
When I break it down, it’s confusing to me. We buy a pumpkin to carve up, display and throw out. Then at the same time, we buy a can of pumpkin puree to pour into a pre-made pie crust and call that food. I mean, it is food, but so was that pumpkin you threw out.
I was perplexed. Why aren’t we eating these pumpkins? Understandably, once it’s carved and has been sitting out its probably going to spoil quickly, and that’s not good eating. That’s gross. But, I wanted to find a way to do both: have my cake and eat it, too. Or in this case, carve my pumpkin and eat it, too.
And just to really make this a challenge, I wanted to find a way to use the entire pumpkin, guts and all. Now, you could argue that I didn’t use the whole pumpkin because I still left a chunk to be carved as a jack-o-lantern. And that’s true, I did. That was my goal, remember? To carve my pumpkin and eat it too! So I figured out a way to remove exactly what I needed to make three recipes: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and roasted pumpkin seeds, while still having enough pumpkin to carve and not make it CRAZY noticeable that he was missing backside.
THE PUMPKIN CHALLENGE:
- Carve a jack-o-lantern and make a pie from the same pumpkin.
- Find a way to use the pumpkin guts and make something delicious
just to up the ante
- Nothing can go to landfill
- must be vegan-friendly
Surprisingly, I think it worked.
So first things first: the pumpkin pie. Using my homemade pie dough using the converted All-Butter Crust recipe from CrazyForCrust (Their recipe and my vegan/zero waste version using Miyoko’s plant based butter – 100% compostable packaging)
So before I started any recipe, I deconstructed the pumpkin to make it more manageable. One of the many reasons the internet warned against using these pumpkins to bake with was because of how hard it is to cut them. I was weary. I am small, but I’m tough as nails. But I’m also clumsy and my knives aren’t great and I love all ten of my fingers, even the little ones.
So with a deep breath I sized up Ol’ Pumpy and just sliced him right in half. Well, it was close to half, maybe more like 1/3. I’m only human. It took a little bit of force but it easier than cutting spaghetti squash because the pumpkin was a bit more stable on the cutting board.
Now I could lay that big old chunk of pumpkin down on the board and cut it into about 2-3” wedges. Four wedges total. Then I baked them for an hour at 400F in preparation for my pumpkin pie.
As the wedges baked, I went onto the next recipe.
Full disclosure: this recipe was a result of serious confusion. I was watching this very cute YouTube video… let me see if I can find it… I searched “Use whole carving pumpkin pie” and she was the adorable one with the Irish accent. Here, her name is Esme. I love her.
So I was like, perfect, no waste pumpkin pie, she has already done the leg work, this is going swimmingly. Only somehow I not only misheard what she said, I implanted information as well. Originally, when she scooped out the seeds and the guts, I thought she said “this is the part we will use.” Revolutionary. Waste-free. Original. I love it.
Then I watched it again yesterday and realized I should stop watching YouTube videos when I’m half asleep because she clearly scoops out the guts and says “This is the only part we won’t use.”
I was basing my entire recipe on something I didn’t even hear.
I didn’t panic. Okay maybe for a second. I washed the pumpkin guts off my hands so I could type and then off my arms because I realized I was having an allergic reaction at this point, probably to the pumpkin.
But we’re going to get through this.
First, I wanted to find out why people weren’t using the guts. They might look gross, but do they taste bad? Is it edible? The answer is, yes, very edible, and when cooked they have the texture and flavor of spaghetti squash. So I thought I could either try to make two pumpkin pies, one from pumpkin meat and one from the guts, but that’s a lot of pie…. So instead, I decided to puree the guts and make it into pumpkin bread.
Holy crap, did it ever work.
Since I had only used a little less than 1/2 of the pumpkin for the pie, I still had a good chunk to carve on. Only now, I could lay the pumpkin flat and carve it easier. In fact, I asked Ivo to carve this one because historically he has been better at pumpkin carving than I am.
Since I’m only using half a pumpkin, it’s hard to call it a true “jack-o-lantern,” so I’ll call it a half-o-lantern. Instead of carving a face, I sketched out “Zero Waste TV” on a piece of parchment paper. Ivo asked why I didn’t just sketch it out on the pumpkin. I didn’t have a good answer. Poor guy, he worked about ten hours that day and then came home and carved a pumpkin for me so I could focus on baking. We leaned it against a stone by the cement path outside our house, and propped up a bit since it was missing a back (and Ivan accidentally carved it upside down) and lit a candle behind it.
We stepped back to take in all its glory.
Then I realized, “Hmm, It looks like it says Zeko Wast TV….“
I love it. It is perfect. Do you like how I almost dropped my phone at the end?
After I took the bread out of the oven, I was too tired to cook anything else so I put the pumpkin wedges and bowl of pumpkin seeds in the fridge to finish tomorrow.
I had separated the seeds from the pumpkin guts the night before, which took me about 7 minutes. The next morning, I rinsed the seeds off again but didn’t dry them like usual. At this point I would usually dry them on a clean dish towel, oil them, season them, and bake them, but I wanted to try something new. I wanted to try boiling them first.
But then I was like, why? I liked them the way I cook them normally, without boiling them. Why add an extra step? Why bring water into the mix? You want them nice and dry before you bake them, anyway. After I thought about it, it seemed like unnecessary difficulty, so I went back to plan A.
Here’s how it went down:
And while those baked, I prepared the pumpkin pie. Since it was so easy making pie dough, I wasn’t stressed about having to whip up another batch. The worst part about making pie dough, in my opinion, is cleaning the food processor, which isn’t really a big deal.
Pumpkin Pie Recipe
An hour later, the pie was done and the challenge was complete. Whew. Now I can get ready for Halloween. And if you’re looking for some more low-waste Halloween tips, check out my recent video:
Woahhh hey now!
Wait a minute…
Just when I thought all possible uses of the pumpkin had been explored, a reader messaged me with their amazing idea!
Instead of composting that roasted pumpkin skin, once separated from the pumpkin meat, season and roast some more! They make delicious pumpkin chips that are healthy and full of fiber and nutrients. Season them with a little oil and salt. And simply roast the skins on a baking sheet at 400F for 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick they are. Make them as crispy as you want, just don’t waste them!
I was able to use the entire pumpkin for every intended purpose, except for the skin! Which, honestly, I’m okay with. Considering how amazing the pumpkin guts bread turned out, I’ll never be wasting those stringy bits again!
Total waste to compost:
1/2 a jack-o’-lantern shell:
Sure, I could’ve used the whole pumpkin and made more pies or bread or other dishes, but I wanted to see if I could do it all with one pumpkin, to have my cake and eat it, too. Jack-o-lantern? Check. Pumpkin Pie? Check. Found a way to use pumpkin guts? Check. EVEN THE SKIN? Check. And of course, the roasted pumpkin seeds: a bunch of little checks.
I hope you found this post to be fun and educational! Let’s use as much of those pumpkins as we can this year, and try to reduce the annual waste statistics.
From ZEKO WAST TV.