I have 6 pumpkin plants and between 60 and 70 pumpkins maturing. Like growing every vegetable it is a challenge to know how many pumpkin vines to plant. I actually had another hill where the seedlings were so damaged by rabbits that they died. Apparently this year’s weather was good for pumpkins and many people did well with them. My upcoming challenge is getting rid of the pumpkins that I have in a responsible way. I don’t like to leave them to rot or to supply Halloween ammunition that creates a mess on roads and lawns.
Obviously each pumpkin provides a lot of food value. How many ways can we have pumpkin besides pie? I am researching recipes that create side dishes rather than desserts. The pumpkin pulp itself is not overly sweet so this angle looks promising.
Of course Halloween carving and decoration should take some of them off my hands. I usually host a pre-Halloween pumpkin gathering for family, friends and neighbors. Kids seem to enjoy the idea that they are helping harvest and of course they can pick out and take home as many pumpkins in the sizes and shapes that they like. After we haul in a few loads with the garden tractor and trailer we roast brats and wieners and have a great time around the fire.
I am sometimes able to donate pumpkins for the fall festivals. A lot of people like to use pumpkins and any leftover corn stalks as yard decorations. The smaller pumpkins can even be used for inside decorations. One of the most cleaver uses that I have seen is to use a pumpkin with the top cut off as a seasonal cut flower container. People who live in town and can’t imagine growing pumpkins are happy to get them for free.
By Halloween, if I still have 40 pumpkins or so, I am going to have to find other strategies. The demand and interest drops way off after the holiday. Some people will take them for food. I always share my tips for preparation to those people who usually buy canned pumpkin. Cut the pumpkins in half (quarters for very large ones). Remove the seed and pulps. The seed can be gently roasted for snacks as well. Place the cut pumpkin on baking sheets and bake in a medium oven until a fork can be stuck through the skin. When the pumpkins cool peel off the skin. Often no knife is necessary for removing the skin. The chunks of pumpkin may be stringy and still too firm to mash up for pie. I use a food grinder but a blender or other tools can be used to turn the pumpkin into pulp. The pulp can be divided into portions suitable for your favorite recipes and frozen or canned.
Pumpkins can be stored for later in the season use. If you plan to keep pumpkins, be sure that they are completely ripe. Leaving on some of the stem seems to help them ripen even when they are removed from the vine. Store them in a cool but non-freezing location and you can enjoy them well into the winter months.
Still have pumpkins left? One of the best uses I have found is offering them for cattle feed. Even old jack-0-lanterns can be used this way. Cows LOVE pumpkins! It is a good idea to cut or break them to give cattle a start. If the cattle belong to someone else, ask first but most cattle owners are happy to have the treat for the livestock. If children see that cows enjoy their jack-o-lanterns it can make the Halloween clean up that much easier.
Every year I try to grow a reasonable number of pumpkin and every year I have more than enough. I make the most of them though and kids and cows are happy!