Pumpkins ~ A Fall Tradition, A Little History, A Few Facts & Some Ideas For What To Do With Your Leftover Pumpkins From Halloween!
By: Joanne Curley
A Fall Tradition: Beginning as early as September, Pumpkin flavors are added to coffee, latte’s, breads, cakes, muffins, scones and more! Pumpkins begin to appear on porches and are used as popular landscape or yard decorations. Even inside, pumpkins adorn tables, fireplaces, and more. They are widely used to decorate for Fall as well as Halloween, where people carve them, paint them and decorate them in a variety of ways. There are many unique varieties of pumpkins ranging from yellowish orange to white, dark green, and many shades in between.
Pumpkins and Fall are virtually synonymous.
A Little History: Pumpkins are native to North America and are one of the oldest domesticated plants. There is evidence that they have been around as early as 7000 BC. An interesting fact about pumpkins is that Jack-O-Lanterns were originally carved in Ireland using Turnips or even Potatoes, in hopes of warding off evil spirits. When Irish immigrants arrived in the US, they found that pumpkins were much larger and easier to carve so they began using them for
A Few Facts: Pumpkins are grown around the world on every continent except Antarctica!
They are a type of squash that produces fruit that are orange to yellow in color, roundish shaped and have a thick shell. They are from the same plant family as melons and cucumbers. Some increasingly popular varieties of pumpkins are white and dark green in color. Pumpkin plants produce both male and female flowers that are pollinated by squash bees or honeybees. Both the fruit and the flower are edible and a popular food item in the Southwestern US as well as Mexico.
Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced annually in the US. Pumpkins are mostly grown commercially for food, including pies, breads, cakes and other food items, as well as for Halloween and Fall decorations. Top pumpkin producing states include Illinois (Morton, IL is known for being the “Pumpkin Capital of the World”), Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California. Our native state of Texas actually is also a great place for growing pumpkins due to the warm dry weather and long growing season, often going well into the Fall. According to the USDA, over 1.5 billions pounds of pumpkins are grown in the US annually. And while Texas is not the largest grower of pumpkins, it did have the greatest revenue ($25.9 million) for pumpkin sales in 2020, surpassing all other states including Illinois and California.
With Halloween being over, many people soon decide to throw pumpkins away but there are several other options, and some will be a great investment for next year’s garden! Below are a few ideas to repurpose or “recycle” your pumpkins and/or pumpkin parts:
- Pumpkins are quite nutritious, rich in vitamins and iron, and they are quite a treat for many animals. If you don’t have a local zoo or animal rescue operation close by that you can donate them to, you might consider sharing with your animals or check with your neighbors who raise cattle, chickens, ducks, goats or even pigs. According to VPSI , “Pumpkins are a safe treat for many animals from pets to livestock.” Click here to see how to safely feed leftover pumpkin to these animals and more.
- Pumpkins are packed with vitamins and minerals, so they also will make great additives to your compost pile. Rather than putting them in the trash where they will end up in a landfill, try cutting them up and adding them to your compost pile. Remember to take out the seeds if you don’t want volunteer pumpkin plants next year though. If you do not compost, you can chop up your leftover pumpkins and simply add them to your gardening area. By next season, they will decompose and provide a great addition to your soil for your next season’s garden.
- Save your seeds! Growing pumpkins from seeds take 90-120 days to germinate so if you are wanting to grow pumpkins next year, planting seeds at the end of June or very beginning of July will allow time for the plants to produce fruit in time for Halloween and Fall decorations.
- Seeds- Roast them or simply dry them out and share. Pumpkin seeds are a unique treat for birds so if you don’t roast them and eat them yourself, you can dry them out and share them with our feathered friends. Larger birds like Blue Jays, Cardinals, Gray Catbirds and many others will enjoy pumpkin seeds. Click here to find out more details about using pumpkin seeds for your backyard friends. Note: while dried or roasted pumpkin seeds are great treats for the birds, do not put out seeds that have salt, seasonings or other coatings or additives in them. 
5.Pumpkin bird feeders are another option. You can simply cut the bottom third or half ofyourpumpkinoff,emptythegutsandseeds,useropeorstringtohangitandsimplyaddbirdseed. Then watch and see who comes to visit. (Caution: If you do not hang this, youwill likely attract other types of wildlife such as squirrels, rabbits, and possibly otheranimals depending on where you live.) After about a week or as the pumpkin begins torot,simplytakedownandaddtoyourcompostpileorturnoverinyourgarden’ssoil.
There are many other options for your used pumpkins! Get creative, try some new recipes or one of the ideas above and just give it a try! If all else fails, you can always add it to your garden soil or compost pile.
- Pumpkins: Background and Statistics; USDA.gov
- Can Pets and Livestock Eat Leftover Halloween Pumpkins?;Veterinary and Poultry Supply, Inc. (VPSI)-BarnTalk
- So you’ve got an old pumpkin to get rid of …; Ohio State University, Oct 30, 2020 issue
Grayson County Master Gardeners Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone 903-813-4204, our web page https://txmg.org/grayson/, or our Facebook group.