The real halloween horror: of pumpkins and conspicuous waste

Did you buy a pumpkin last week? And if you did, what became of it.

And if the answer is: it ended up in the bin, all 3-4 kilos of it, aren’t you just a teensy bit ashamed?

The goods

Like many parents, i left it too late…so i was out in the week before Halloween desperately scouring the supermarkets for a pumpkin that was neither ludicrously large, not mottled with some brown spotty pumpkin disease.

Success! After i drew a blank at my local Morrison, i scored one of the last from Tesco.

Back home again, i removed the sharp knife from my son (aged 9), extracted the pumpin innards and set about carving a face, of sorts. Son was OK with that: as far as he is concerned, the point of Halloween is a) the bit where he gets to light a candle (he is budding pyromaniac) and b) the bit where he roams the neighbourhood levying confectionery tribute from anyone foolish enough to open their door to him.

We added some fake blood, inserted a candle…and i declined to do what i understand is all the rage: re-arrange the insides to look like the pumpkin head is throwing up.

So far so good.

The bad

Nonetheless, i remain sceptical of the whole industry. Too many years running, i am aware that the morning after the night before, the pumpkin is unceremoniously binned. Or worse, it is placed on a shelf in the fridge, on the grounds that we’ll get round to doing SOMETHING with it.

Eventually, it rots and is thrown out all the same. (A bit like a pig’s head that one of my housemates obtained once upon a time from a local butcher in the days when we were students: it seemed like a good idea at the time, being a very cheap cut of lots of meat. But friend had not the faintest idea how to cook pig’s head and we eventually binned the all of it when one ear turned purple and looked like it was about to drop off).

This, i have to own, is very depressing. The throwing out of perfectly good food, that is. For some years i have looked, in vain, for reputable figures in order to quantify this waste. This year i found some and, in a world in which millions of people routinely go hungry, it makes for some pretty sad reading.

The top line, according to food and beverage agency, Quantica, is:

over a million pumpkins are purchased every year in the UK

two-thirds of people will throw edible pumpkins away after the Halloween “celebration” is over

18,000 tonnes of pumpkin was sent to landfill sites in the UK last year

That is disgusting. Criminal. And also very different from the way in which pumpkins are treated in the US, where most people appear to have got the memo: pumpkins are first and foremost FOOD. You CAN eat them.

…and the smugly

I s’pose it helps if you like pumpkin and have a vague idea what to do with it! Research also quoted by Quantica suggested over half of people who buy a pumpkin for Halloween would re-use their pumpkins if there were more recipes for cooking, while a further 42% said they avoided cooking pumpkins because of the hassle involved in de-seeding and skinning them.

Really? I mean: REALLY?

I s’pose here is as good a point as any to confess that i quite like the taste of pumpkin – and apart from the waste thing it does annoy that they are difficult to buy at any other time BECAUSE of this obsession with carving them into ugly faces.

For those even slightly interested, here’s what i did with mine this year.

The seeds were taken out, salted and sprinkled with olive oil before roasting: yum!

About a third of the flesh was turned into a mega pumpkin pie (first boil to soften, add sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and beat in a couple of eggs, before pouring into a pastry shell and baking: delivious on its own, with cream or ice cream

The rest of the flesh i simply boiled and split into two. One half i have frozen and will use some time as a veg, either on its own or mixed with carrot or swede: t’other half i will add potato, cumin and curry powder, before turning into a curried pumpkin soup.

That’s only not straightforward if you are someone who doesn’t cook much. Otherwise, its really not rocket science!


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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