These deliciously healthy recipes are all you need to transform pumpkins into something truly magical before the stroke of midnight.
If you’re planning to carve a seasonal pumpkin this October, why not use the rest of the pumpkin?
Halloween & health
As the supermarkets roll out their crates filled with bright orange pumpkins, you know that Halloween is just around the corner.
Every year you pick a couple up, carve them with the kids and then chuck them away on November 1st, but did you know there’s actually a lot more you could be doing with this classic autumnal fruit?
From toasting the seeds, to actually growing your own, there’s so many things you can do with your pumpkin. As well as being a lovely aesthetic addition to your home and garden, they are also incredibly nutritious.
Just like carrots and sweet potatoes, they’re rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is helpful for maintaining good eyesight and can even play a role in cancer prevention.
One cup of cooked pumpkin will also provide nearly 200 per cent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A, as well as containing more potassium than a banana!
Studies have shown that eating the seeds can also be good for your heart, as they reduce cholesterol.
And if eating them is really not for you, then you can always feed your plants by composting them down or creating nutrient-rich containers from your used Halloween pumpkins.
To get you started, I’ve put together a quick guide to growing your own, along with some delicious pumpkin recipe ideas, so no part of this lovely Halloween treat goes to waste!
Grow your own
Believe it or not, pumpkins don’t magically appear in the first week of October ready to be hacked into with a carving knife. They grow from the seeds you usually scoop out and throw away, and are actually relatively easy to grow in a British garden, as long as you have a spacious patch with plenty of sun.
Here’s a rough guide to growing your own in time for next year’s Halloween.
Either buy seeds from the garden centre, or wash the biggest seeds that came out your Halloween pumpkin and dry them out in an airing cupboard, and then store in a paper envelope in a cool dry place.
Now a little patience is required, as you won’t be planting them until spring!
In April or May sow your seeds indoors 1cm deep in pots that are about 8cm deep.
Seal the pots by placing a plastic bag over the top until germination occurs.
About a month later, plant out your pumpkins in a spacious sunny site, with nutrient rich soil – make sure to add lots of organic compost. Try to acclimatise your plants by moving them to a cold frame first, or gradually bringing them outdoors during the day time.
Most varieties will need at least a metre between them (check yours first), and prefer to be planted in little mounds of soil about 15cm high.
Water your pumpkins during dry spells, and apply plenty of fertiliser as pumpkins are often hungry! You may need to support your pumpkins off the soil using tiles or wooden boards, and you can train their trailing vines in circles around the plant to save space.
You’ll know they’re ready to harvest when the fruit has a rich orange colour.
So once you’ve got your pumpkins, what to do with them? Below are my favourite pumpkin recipes that are sure to warm you up this autumn.
TOP TIP: The easiest pumpkin snack to make is roasted pumpkin seeds – simply lay the seeds on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil, salt and pepper and bake in the oven until golden. Voila – a healthy and delicious snack.
- 1 Medium Sized Pumpkin
- 2 Onions
- 1 Garlic Clove
- 750ml Chicken Stock
- 200ml Single Cream
- Creme Fraiche/ Pumpkin Seeds to serve
Serves: 6 Takes: 50 Mins
- Peel and chop up your pumpkin, removing the seeds as you go. Chop up the inner flesh into chunks, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast on a baking tray in the oven for about 20 minutes at 180C.
- Fry two chopped onions and a minced clove of garlic in a large pot. Once the onions are soft, add your roasted pumpkin and chicken stock, and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Pour in the single cream, bring to the boil once again and then blend with a stick blender, or cool slightly and pour into a stand blender. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Top with a dollop of crème fraiche, and some roasted pumpkin seeds. You could even serve this soup to guests in hollowed out pumpkins for a fun and decorative halloween feast.
Pumpkin and Bacon Risotto
- 1 Medium Sized Pumpkin
- 1 Onion
- 2 Garlic Cloves
- 1l Chicken Stock
- 125ml White Wine
- 200g Risotto Rice
- 5 Slices of Bacon Chopped
- Parmesan to serve
Serves: 3-4 Takes: 1 Hour
- Chop up the inner flesh of your pumpkin and roast on a baking tray in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180C, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile fry 2 minced garlic cloves and a chopped onion in a pan with a little oil until soft. Prepare a litre of chicken stock.
- Add the risotto rice to the pan and stir in quickly for about a minute, and then add the white wine and a little bit of stock, stirring until it has all disappeared, and then adding more, for about 20 minutes until all the stock has been used and the rice is cooked through.
- Fry some bacon bits in a pan until crispy, and then stir into your rice mix, along with the roasted pumpkin chunks, and some grated parmesan to taste.
Pumpkin Spiced Tart
- 1 Ready Rolled Sweet Pastry
- 1 Medium Sized Pumpkin
- A pinch of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Vanilla Powder and Ground Ginger
- 4tbsp Maple Syrup, plus more to serve
- 3 Large eggs
- 3tbsp Caster Sugar
- 100ml Double Cream
- Toasted Pecans and Ice Cream to serve
Serves: 6-8 Takes: 1.5 hours
- Line a loose-bottomed tart tin with the ready rolled sweet pastry, and then blind bake for 20 minutes at 180C until golden.
- Meanwhile, chop up the inner flesh of your pumpkin and roast on a baking tray in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180C, sprinkled with some cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, vanilla powder and drizzled with 4tbsp of maple syrup.
- Allow to cool and then blend in a food processor, making sure to pour in all the syrup from the baking tray. Mix in three large eggs, 3 tbsp of caster sugar and 100ml of double cream.
- Pour the mix into your cooled sweet pastry case. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180C, until the filling has set. Drizzle with maple syrup, some toasted pecans, and serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
Carve, craft or cook
Pumpkins that have already been carved are generally no good for eating, because they have been sitting outside, but you can refrigerate the inner flesh for cooking with at the time of carving.
Choose your pumpkin cultivar to suit its use. Try to find or grow culinary pumpkins if you’re planning to cook with them, watch my video on which ones are best for this!
To use up your carved Halloween pumpkin, either add it to your compost heap, or make a pumpkin planter.
I love using quirky things as planters, and a pumpkin carcass is no exception! Before the carcass starts to decompose, get some seeds and soil into it.
You may need to line the pumpkin with newspaper and pack the soil in fairly tightly to stop it from falling out where your jack-o-lanterns face was.
You can either leave the whole thing out as decoration for a few more weeks or you can plant the whole thing in the ground in the garden.
The pumpkin will decompose and contribute to the seeds’ growth, therefore providing them with nutritious food and hopefully in the New Year, you’ll have some gorgeous, brightly coloured flowers.
With your carved pumpkins in the ground and batches of pumpkin soup in the freezer, you’ll be reaping the benefits of your pumpkins all year round. Not such a once-a-year wonder after all!
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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