Halloween 2022 is here and you might well be thinking about what happens next with your no-doubt elaborately designed pumpkin.
The distinctive orange fruit is edible for humans and animals alike, and can be used to give your local wildlife a much-needed boost ahead of the dark winter months. But how exactly could you go about doing this - and what else can you do with your pumpkin after Halloween? Here’s everything you need to know.
When should I carve my Halloween pumpkin?
The advice on when to begin carving your Halloween pumpkin varies but the general wisdom is to avoid going too early.
Left intact, the fruit will last for eight to 12 weeks as it is protected by its thick, orange skin. But once opened up, pumpkins only tend to last for a matter of days before sagging and starting to go mouldy - not a pretty sight for trick-or-treaters on 31 October. So, the later you can leave carving your pumpkin the better.
Fortunately, Halloween is taking place on a Monday this year, which means you can do your carving on Sunday and still have it looking fresh the following evening. If Sunday is not an option, the best time to go for it is two-to-five days in advance of Halloween.
Can I prolong the life of my carved pumpkin?
As a rule of thumb, if you want your pumpkin to last longer you should remove as much of the inner soft tissue as possible. That way, you can keep it as dry as possible which slows down the rate of decay.
If your pumpkin starts to shrivel, a top tip from online retailer Ocado is to soak your pumpkin face down in cold water for up to eight hours. The National Trust, meanwhile, has said carved pumpkins last longer if the stem is kept as a lid for the fruit.
However, this lid should not be left on top of the pumpkin if you put a candle inside. This is because the stem could shrivel and fall inside your pumpkin, creating a fire hazard.
What can I do with my Halloween pumpkin after 31 October?
According to the Woodland Trust, 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin gets thrown away in the UK after Halloween every year. But this food waste can be avoided - even if your pumpkin has become inedible.
For those who decide to do something with their pumpkin whilst it’s still fresh, there are numerous ways of cooking them. You can even leave the skin on if you cook your pumpkin at a high heat for around 30-minutes.
The flesh can be made into a puree after the fruit has been baked until soft. Its insides can also be used to make soups or stews. Meanwhile, once baked in the oven, its seeds taste delicious as a savoury topping for salads or as a snack. Even the pulp can be eaten, with Ocado saying it can be used in a broth, for a chutney or as a base for mulled wine.
If the fruit has gone off, it can be used to support wildlife (provided you haven’t coated it in anything that could be toxic to animals, such as petroleum jelly). The National Trust says the seeds can be given to birds and squirrels. The remaining husk of the fruit can also be turned into a bird feeder, according to the Woodland Trust.
Another idea is to chop the pumpkin into small pieces and compost it. If you don’t have a compost heap, the Woodland Trust recommends burying chunks of pumpkin in your garden at a depth of 25cm to support insects and worms.