It finally feels like autumn here in the Pacific Northwest. The leaves are changing colors, pumpkins are appearing on my neighbors’ front porches and my family is planning our annual trip to a local pumpkin patch.
I’d like to take a minute to think about the humble pumpkin. To many, it’s just a yard decoration. It’s something to carve a silly face in and then enjoy it until it starts turning into mush. But it’s food. It’s an agricultural product grown on farms across the country just like the foods we eat more often. Instead of, or in addition to, carving one this year, try baking a pie from a fresh sugar pumpkin. You’ll never want to go back to using canned pumpkin! (Extra bonus: you’ll be avoiding BPA too.) You can’t go wrong with this recipe and here’s a vegan recipe I’ve made and really like as well. If you’re not planning on cooking your pumpkins (though you should!) it’s worth taking a minute to consider where that pretty orange vegetable is coming from.
Even if you don’t plan on eating your pumpkin, an organic one is a good choice. Organic farming is healthier for the land, for the people working on the farm and for those living nearby. It usually takes more effort and money to farm organically and with our dollars we can show those farms that we appreciate what they’re doing.
If organic pumpkins are out of your budget, or you can only find organic pumpkins trucked to your city from far away (see my post on eating seasonally for more information about the distance much of our food travels), look for local pumpkins. Supporting your local economy is always a good idea and as more and more of our food comes from huge commercial farms, it’s especially important to support small farms. Find a local farm to visit and you can have a fun, fall outing for the whole family. There are several in my area with pony rides, animals to visit, corn mazes and even delicious apple cider donuts. Yum!
If you want to save your pumpkin for eating, consider painting or drawing on it with washable paint or ink. This is great for kids who aren’t old enough to carve a pumpkin with a knife. After Halloween, wash it off and roast it for dinner or bake it into a pie.
If you do carve it, I won’t judge you because I’ll be doing it too! Save the seeds for roasting and you’ll have a delicious snack. Once Halloween is over, compost your pumpkin, or feed it to some happy farm animals or backyard chickens if you happen to know any.
There are many ways to have a greener Halloween. The pumpkin is just a small piece. Consider making costumes using recycled materials or thrift store finds instead of buying it new. Give trick-or-treaters pencils, stickers, or other usable items instead of cheap chocolate and candy full of high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes. Celebrate the holiday by baking treats using local apples and other seasonal food.
Are you planning on getting pumpkins for baking or carving this year? Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe or tip for making Halloween more eco-friendly? I’d love it if you’d share it with us!
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