There’s more to pumpkins than jack-0′-lanterns and pie– in fact, there are tons of creative uses for this iconic gourd that might surprise you! To kick it off, try these 10 uses for your Halloween pumpkin!
1. Did you know that pumpkins are loaded with vitamins A, C, E, and zinc? Pumpkin is also plentiful in antioxidants, which protects us from the free radicals that do damage to our skin. Create a nourishing face mask or peel using pumpkin puree to nourish the skin. Just add the puree to some coconut milk, apply to your face and let it set for about 20 minutes. Gently wash off the mask and and follow with a moisturizer. Of course, you should always do a patch test first!
2. Not only does pumpkin nourish and heal the skin, it also makes a great exfoliator! The natural enzymes and acids found in pumpkin act to gently dissolve dead skin cells, leaving you with newer, smoother skin. A quick recipe for a pumpkin scrub involves puree, some brown sugar, and oatmeal. Make into a paste, apply to clean face and gently scrub in circular motion; then rinse and admire your glowing skin!
3. Don’t throw away your old Halloween pumpkin in the trash, toss it into your compost pile! Pumpkins are biodegradable after all, so there’s no reason to add it to a landfill. The decaying pumpkin will add nutrients to the soil, which is good for the earth and for your garden. Just make sure to keep the seeds out of the pile, or else you may end up with a sprouting pumpkin patch.
4. If your jack-o’-lantern is starting to look a little more sad than spooky, liven it up by turning it into a makeshift planter. Fill the hollowed out gourd with some potting soil and bright flowers of your choice and place it on your porch. When it starts to break down, simply bury the entire thing (pumpkin and all!) into the ground as a biodegradable flower pot. Not only will the decomposing pumpkin add nutrients to the flowers, it will protect the roots from the cold and frost.
5. We all know pumpkin + pie is a match made in heaven, but it’s more than a one hit wonder! Use the flesh of the pumpkin to make your own puree, which can be used in everything from pancakes to muffins. You could also save the guts (yum?) to make a hearty pumpkin stock to use in fall soups and stews. Or how about these perfect pumpkin cupcakes, this amazing bread pudding, or this incredible pumpkin tart?
6. When you’re in the middle of your pumpkin carving party, remember to save the seeds! Clean them well, then roast them in your oven tossed with a little olive oil and salt at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. You can add them to oatmeal, granola mix, or bread for added texture, or just eat them on their own for a healthy and addictive snack. I like my pumpkin seeds with a kick of chipotle and lime for a Southwest flair.
7. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly a pumpkin carving master. What starts out as a face usually morphs into more of a Picasso-esque interpretation of a jack-o’-lantern smile. Luckily, there are other ways to decorate with squash that are way less labor intensive and much more chic. Try using a colorful array of pumpkins as centerpieces or name card holders for your next dinner party. Or try dusting them with a bit of glitter to add some autumn glamour.
8. Create a cute and easy candle holder by carving the top off a small pumpkin and resting a mini tea light inside.
9. If you really want to step up your craft game, follow Martha Stewart’s instructions for a DIY pumpkin incense burner. It’s better for you than breathing in fake air freshening chemicals, and will fill your entire house with the cozy smell of pumpkin pie!
10. After over-indulging in all of those rich dinners and stale Halloween candy, your digestive system can be thrown a little, um, out of whack. Luckily, a bit of plain pumpkin puree is full of fiber and makes a great natural digestive aid that’s safe for both you and your pets!
What are some of your creative uses for pumpkin, Dumplings?
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Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr; Kristen Pumphrey via Flickr