Don't Send Your Pumpkins to the Graveyard
August 29, 2022
Sarah Blount

This Halloween, don't send your pumpkins to the graveyard! In the United States, almost one-third by weight of the available food supply went uneaten in 2010—that comes to 133 billion pounds of wasted food and $161.6 billion down the drain. One way to help reduce the amount of food sent to an early grave? Give your Halloween pumpkin a second life!

Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins were produced in the United States in 2018, more than doubling the production of 2015, when heavy rains damaged the havest's chances and led to what some described as "the great pumpkin shortage of 2015." Most of last year's bumper crop was grown in only a handful of states—farmers in Illinois, Texas, and California grew over half of the total pumpkin yield. That's a lot of squash!

Pumpkins for Decoration and Dinner

Seasonal decorative pumpkins and gourds around the holidays are a popular commodity, but if you're letting these squash collapse on your porch step, you're allowing food to be wasted. Pumpkin is a rich source of vitamin A and potassium, and has long held an important place in many global cuisines. If the typical 10-25 pound jack-o-lantern pumpkin doesn't exactly make your stomach rumble, consider another pumpkin varietal. The term “pumpkin” actually refers to members of four different species: Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita pep, and Cucurbita maxima, giving you a wide range of options to choose from. The large orange globes normally used for jack-o-lanterns are typically bred for qualities other than taste, but by expanding your search to include smaller heirloom varieties (which are now carried in many grocery stores), you can find pumpkins that pull double-duty for both their unique aesthetic appeal and their flavorful flesh. 

For inspiration on what to look for and how to cook it, check out this Washington Post article on the best ways to eat 10 varieties of pumpkin and winter squash {may require subscription} or Harvard's Winter Squash, which includes varietals that are blue and others that have a warty-looking exterior—perfect for Halloween!