Gourds: The silent killer of Halloween

Four easy ways for you to dispose of your Halloween pumpkins this season

Carving pumpkins is a happy and wholesome tradition shared by many on Halloween, but those same pumpkins sadly cause nightmarish conditions for our environment each year.

Approximately 80,000 metric tonnes of fresh pumpkins are produced in Canada leading up to Halloween, but almost all of those pumpkins go uneaten and are put to waste.

Instead of consuming nutritious, tasty, and affordable crops, many Canadians carve silly faces in pumpkins or use colourful and funky varieties as decoration. Although the tradition of adorning your property with gourds come Halloween seems untroublesome, the scary truth is that uneaten pumpkins contribute to greenhouse gases when thrown in the garbage.

Pumpkins, like other types of organic waste, produce a gas that is composed primarily of methane when left to decompose in landfills. Methane, like other greenhouse gases, contributes to climate change.

Do not fear though, there are a handful of responsible ways to dispose of pumpkins that Canadians should consider participating in each Halloween.

Composting of pumpkins is a no-brainer. When you choose to compost pumpkins and other organic waste, over time, ‘garbage’ becomes nutrient-dense, rich, organic soil. That soil than can be put to good use in your garden. Veggies love nothing more than compost; your planter boxes and potted plants are sure to thrive and will thank you come spring for composting.

Donating carved pumpkins or decorative gourds is another wonderful way to put your waste to good use. Try calling a wildlife park or other animal rescue. Pumpkins are a nutritious and tasty treat for animals and are likely to be accepted by animal rescues near you.

Within that same vein, try leaving a treat for wildlife out in nature. After Halloween, inspect carved pumpkins and make sure to remove any wax left over from melted candles. Find a good spot and leave outside for deer and other omnivores. Make sure to smash pumpkins preemptively in order to avoid any deer getting their antlers stuck inside.

In terms of uncarved pumpkins and gourds, due to their thick skin, it is likely they could still be consumed or used within your kitchen. Pumpkins tend to last for up to 12 weeks or longer and are therefore unlikely to rot if uncarved.

Cut up pumpkins and roast meat for soups and stews. Baked pumpkin is a nutritious and delicious addition to salads and grain bowls while pureed pumpkin can add a thick and unctuous texture to already steamy broths.

Roast seeds and sprinkle with your favourite seasoning. Pumpkin seeds or ‘pepitas’ are a surprisingly tasty addition to many dishes. Try grinding the seeds after roasting and adding to fruit for an interesting and uniquely flavoured snack.

If overwhelmed by the amount of pumpkin leftover after the holiday, take time to pre-portion and freeze already baked or pureed pumpkin. Frozen pumpkin puree can be used in pasta sauces or ravioli stuffing while frozen chunks of pumpkin can easily be added into soup or stir fry.

No matter what you choose to do with your pumpkin, please do try and avoid tossing it out. There are so many good uses for the seasonal crop.