As the air gets crisper and the leaves start to turn, it’s that time of the year when we eagerly embrace the spooky traditions of Halloween. One of these traditions is carving pumpkins to create eerie, toothy grins or intricate designs. However, as we get our hands dirty scooping out pumpkin guts, we often overlook the hidden cost: food waste.
Pumpkin carving, while fun and visually appealing, generates a significant amount of food waste. Every year, 15.8 million pumpkins – enough to make 95 million meals – are carved and not eaten in the UK (according to research by charity Hubbub). This is not only sad for the pumpkins, it’s also a tremendous waste of the resources that went into producing them – like water, energy, land and the efforts of the growers. When we carve pumpkins and then toss the innards, we’re essentially throwing away these resources.
On top of that, tons of pumpkins are grown for carving and either not sold or not even harvested. If you go picking your own pumpkins this year, why not encourage the grower to grow tastier varieties of pumpkins and squashes that are better for eating (rather than carving), and to invite people to pick (or “glean”) their fields for food after Halloween?
Reducing food waste is an easy way to take climate action. It conserves resources, decreases greenhouse gas emissions, and helps build a more sustainable future. When we make conscious choices to use pumpkins wisely, we’re contributing to a greener, healthier planet.
So it’s time to reconsider our approach to pumpkin decoration. Instead of carving lanterns that will last only a short while, we can paint them, adorn them with fabric or ribbon or use other eco-friendly materials to give them a festive look.
After the Halloween season is over, decorated pumpkins can be made into delicious meals. Pumpkin is a versatile ingredient that can be used in soups, pies, casseroles or roasted as a healthy snack. Most parts of pumpkins and squashes (except for the stalks!) can be eaten. The seeds can be cleaned and toasted in the oven, the peel of soft-skinned squashes can simply be left on, and the innards can be used in veg stock and soups. Even the leaves of pumpkin plants make for a delicious green summer vegetable.
This Halloween, let’s create less waste and more taste. Carving might be the traditional way, but it’s time to carve out a new tradition that benefits our environment. Decorate your pumpkins, and when the season is done, savour the flavours of the season.
If you are looking for tasty recipes for locally grown pumpkins and squashes, take a look at the #EatYourPumpkin campaign on hubbub.org.uk. And please share photos of your decorated pumpkins and dinner creations on social media with #EatYourPumpkin and #ClosingLoops.
If you’d like to join gleaning events – harvesting surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste in the fields – please join the North Lancashire Gleaning Network.