Pumpkins, the Ultimate Zero Waste Decoration

Today is National Pumpkin Day, perfectly placed a week before Halloween, reminding everyone of their favorite Halloween decoration and activity, carving Jack-O-Lanterns! For me, pumpkins are the ultimate when it comes to zero waste decoration throughout the autumn months, representing the harvest and the community gathering to reap and enjoy the fruits of the season. Not only do pumpkins come in all shapes, shades, and sizes, but after their lives, as ornamentation comes to an end, they are reincarnated as food! From bread to beer, soup to soufflés, pie to pancakes, there are a plethora of options to give your pumpkin a second life, moving them from decorations to the dinner plate.

Not only do they taste delicious, but they are also quite nutritious! These orange beauties are rich in pro-vitamin beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A, an essential component for normal vision and integrity of the skin and mucous membranes. Vitamin A also triggers white blood cell production to fight infections. Pumpkins are high in fiber which slows digestion and sugar uptake, keeping blood sugar stable and promoting regular bowel movements. pumpkins are also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals like potassium, copper, manganese, thiamine, niacin, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. Talk about a super-food! Doubling as decorations and dessert, this amazing fruit is full of the micro-nutrients your body needs to keep running smoothly.
Two of the simpler options are homemade pumpkin spice latte and roasted pumpkin seeds.
For roasted pumpkin seeds, wash them in a colander to stringy bits and lay them on a baking sheet to dry overnight, they won’t roast well when wet. When you’re ready to cook them, heat the oven to 300, toss the seeds in oil (butter and olive oil are my go-tos) of your choice, and season to taste before cooking for 35-45 minutes, watching carefully and stirring every 10 minutes to prevent burning. For spicy seeds try 1 tsp each garlic salt, paprika, and black pepper. For pumpkin spice flavor add 1 TBS sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger powder, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, and 1/8 tsp nutmeg. To keep it simple, just add a pinch of salt.
For a delicious latte, combine 2 TBS pumpkin puree, 2 cups milk, 1 TBS vanilla extract, 1/2 cup coffee, and 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice in a saucepan and heat thoroughly. Makes two servings. If you don’t have pumpkin spice, you probably have the ingredients to make your own! Grab an empty spice jar and add 1.5 tbs cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger powder, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, and a pinch of ground cloves.
After you’ve enjoyed your pumpkins as decorations and transformed them into delectable, edible delicacies, whatever is left over goes in the compost! If you don’t have your own composting system, ask a friend if you can contribute to theirs. No friends who like digging in the dirt? Find a Whole Foods Market location with compost in their dining area and drop it off there!
The best part about non-plastic decorations is that they can return to Mama Earth, turn back into dirt, and then grow into a whole new pumpkin next year! Commit to completing the circle of life this harvest season by properly disposing of your food waste in the compost. Way scarier than anything you’ll encounter on Halloween, food in a landfill produces methane which is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. Let’s keep our pumpkin roasting confined to the kitchen by reducing our harmful gas production in the kitchen.

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