By Gabe Ross, Farm Manager
Every holiday seems to slowly fade away with some decorations staying up long after the event; Christmas lights, plastic Easter eggs, paper shamrocks, and the list goes on. Luckily for us after Halloween, a certain straggling decoration is a useful one. Leftover pumpkins have a variety of uses. Chickens, pigs and cows love to eat them, and, depending on the varieties, people can eat them. Pumpkins make great compost and we can save the seeds to grow more next year from heirloom or open pollinated varieties.
Pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants in North America, originating in Central America around 7,500 years ago; but they weren’t the original produce used in the making of Jack O’lanterns. While the exact history is unknown, Jack O’ Lanterns were originally carved from turnips or beets in Ireland, when Irish immigrants came to North America, they found pumpkins to be perfect for this.
Saving pumpkin seeds is easy, just cut open the mature fruit, take the seeds out, rinse all the slime off and then spread them out to dry. When rinsing the seeds in a bucket of water, viable seeds will sink and non-viable seeds will float. Any seeds that are deformed or don’t look fully formed shouldn’t be saved for seed. As I mentioned previously, saving seed from heirloom or open pollinated pumpkins is best. These seeds will make plants similar to the original plant they came from and fruit similarly. Seeds saved from hybrid pumpkins will often grow lots of vines and leaves with very little fruit or fruit that doesn’t resemble the pumpkin that produced the seed. A testament to this is the often-unidentifiable squashes that grow from compost piles. Most pumpkin seeds that end up in a compost pile get so hot they don’t germinate, but a few sometimes make it through. To avoid sprouting, you can just take the seeds out before composting the rest of the pumpkin.
So now that Halloween is over, you can find a use for those old pumpkins instead of putting them in the trash.