BY PATTI TAGGART
Did you know that the tradition of carving pumpkins on Halloween originated from the Irish who immigrated to the Unites States? As the myth goes, Stingy Jack tricked the devil, and after Jack died, he was doomed to roam the earth with a turnip lantern. Since there weren’t many turnips in the U.S., the tradition turned to lighting pumpkins. The old Irish folk tale morphed into the present-day practice of carving jack-o’-lanterns
But what to do with all those leftover pumpkins? At Slow Food Lake Tahoe, not only do we grow pumpkins (just a few!), but we provide suggestions for all the jack-o’-lanterns that light up the Halloween sky.
Let’s start with a few tasty ideas, most of which involve making a pumpkin puree. (Please note that moldy pumpkins do not fall into this category, see below for ideas on use of pumpkins that are beginning to age.)
• Pumpkin Puree: Cut your pumpkins lengthwise along the natural groove and remove any remaining seeds and gunk. Bake the pieces in the oven at 400 degrees, face down, for about an hour or until soft. Cool and peel any remaining skin, cut into chunks, and purée with a food processor or blender. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water.
Here are some ideas for how to use that lovely purée.
Save $5 and make your own pumpkin spice latte. Pour about half a cup of coffee into a pan and add pumpkin purée. Add a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, some maple syrup, and vanilla. Froth it up and enjoy!
• Create a moisturizing mask for your face. Combine some purée with a little honey and milk for an instant beauty treatment.
• Bake yummy homemade dog treats. Check out the recipe below, taken from allrecipes.com.
• Use your puree to make soup, cake, pies, and muffins.
• Roasting the seeds is also a delicious way to enjoy your pumpkin. Drizzle the seeds with oil, add your favorite spices, then roast for a healthy treat.
Pumpkins also make great planters. This works best with pumpkins that haven’t been carved. To make a planter, cut off the top and scoop out the seeds (seeabove to roast the seeds). Drill a drainage hole in the bottom, then fill with potting soil and plant your favorite seasonal plant.
Here are some ideas for those pumpkins that are beginning to fade and mold:
• Boost your garden soil buy chopping the pumpkin into pieces and adding it to your flower or vegetable beds. Make sure all the seeds and candle wax are removed.
• Chop up the pumpkins and feed it to animals. Chickens love pumpkins as do many other animals, like rats. Make sure that pumpkins are free of paint, plastic, and wax before feeding them to animals.
• Compost your old pumpkins. This is the best way to dispose of pumpkins that are moldy and beginning to rot. Pumpkins can be composted at the Slow Food Lake Tahoe Garden in the regional park, or in Keep Truckee Green composting containers located behind Mountain Hardware or behind the Truckee Police Department.
~ Slow Food Lake Tahoe operates the Food Bank Garden and the Community Garden in the Truckee Tahoe Regional Park. It also cosponsors a Grow Your Own series on high elevation gardening in the spring. For more information or to volunteer, go to slowfoodlaketahoe.org.
Homemade Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Treats
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 large eggs
½ cup pureed pumpkin
2 tablespoons peanut butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon water or more if necessary (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Combine flour, eggs, pumpkin, peanut butter, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl; stir with a spatula until combined.
Transfer mixture to a work surface and work it with your hands until mixture starts to come together. Add 1 teaspoon water at a time (only if needed) to help make the dough workable, but don’t add too much as it should be dry and stiff.
Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch.
Cut into 1/2-inch pieces and transfer to a baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until dog treats are golden brown and crunchy, about 40 minutes. Let cool before serving to your dog.