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Eating Pumpkin – Make a Meal From Your Jack-O-Lantern

Posted in Food Safety on October 6, 2018

This time of year everywhere we turn there are pumpkins. Most people see them and immediately think of what they could carve from these round figures, but others wonder what they could create to eat. Some cringe at the idea of devouring the gourd, but others love the taste of various pumpkin style creations. Like eating pumpkin? Do we have a good article for you!

To Eat or Not to Eat?

So should you make a meal from your jack-o-lantern? There is a double sided answer to this. TheDailyMeal dove into this topic with both feet and discovered that while the traditional carving pumpkin aka jack-o-lantern can be cooked it doesn’t have the best taste like other style pumpkins.

The Halloween icon that we’ve grown to know, love, and use our creative energies on is called the Howden pumpkin. Sturdy, round, and bright orange, this gourd has been bred specifically for decorative purposes, with a stem that acts more like a handle than anything else. Inside, its flesh is tough, stringy, and watery, making it less than ideal for your pumpkin purées. So while you can eat it, the resulting pumpkin dish won’t turn out wonderfully. (The seeds, on the other hand, can be delightful when roasted.)

Other pumpkin varieties make amazing menu selections and they are all relatively easy to make. Personally, we like to bake pumpkins and then puree the insides and make them into pie filling. This filling can be used for so many recipes including the famous pumpkin pie which is an absolute Thanksgiving staple in our home, but it also makes great pumpkin cheesecake, muffins, pancakes and the list could go on and on.

If you choose to cook your jack-o-lantern know that it may require more sugar when making fillings and other treats because they are not as naturally sweet as other varieties. We like to add plain traditional white sugar, but have in the past added brown sugar for such a rich and delicious flavor combination. Brown sugar just reminds me of fall and winter and really warms the soul.

The Carved Jack-O-Lantern

Once you have carved your pumpkin you may want to reconsider eating it. tells us: Once you carve ‘em, don’t eat ‘em! Within 2 hours of being carved their bacterial load may be too dangerous to eat. Don’t take the chance. And besides, think of all the soot that’s been deposited by those candles flickering on the inside of those pumpkins.

Instead, consider buying an extra pumpkin just for eating or try decorating your pumpkins without carving, so you can use them as decoration and as food! Decorate your pumpkins with string, gauze, pipe cleaners, craft paint, markers, felt pieces, nuts and bolts, buttons, duct tape, Mr.Potato head pieces or other odds and sods you have lying around the house.

One pumpkin will go a long way in making all those delicious pumpkin recipes we’ve come to love.

Keep the Bacteria at Bay

The WV Gazette gave some awesome tips on keeping the bacteria at bay

When you go to buy your pumpkin, there are some things to look for. Make sure your pumpkin has no soft spots or any discoloration to its skin. Also, take a close look to see if there are any puncture wounds to the skin from mishandling during shipping.

  • Think about what design to carve into it.
  • Before you make your first cut, sterilize the entire pumpkin with bleach and a spray bottle.
  • Fill the spray bottle with water and add 1 teaspoon of bleach. Next, spray the pumpkin’s surface with the mixture, including the stem, and wait one minute. When time is up, use a clean rag to wipe off the pumpkin.
  • This step ensures the fungi and bacteria that grow on the pumpkin’s surface are neutralized. This will make your pumpkin last longer.
  • After you have disinfected the pumpkin, you can start to carve. Make sure to clean the inside of the pumpkin out really well and remove all strings and seeds. They give fungi the perfect place to colonize and grow if not completely removed.
  • After you clean out your pumpkin and carve your design, spray the outside and inside with the bleach solution one more time. Wipe off the outside like you did before, and let the spray dry on the inside.
  • Lastly, cover the inside and all cuts with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. This will help keep air and bacteria away from the fresh cuts.

Carved pumpkins are not fond of temperatures above 60 degrees F or below 35 degrees F. You may need to keep your pumpkin in a cool, dry place during the day or if it will be below freezing at night.

Most people like to use a candle to illuminate their pumpkins. This is a bad idea. Open flames can be a recipe for disaster, and the soot and heat from the candle cause the pumpkin to decay rapidly. It’s better to use a battery-powered source for illumination.

Whether you decide to carve it, decorate it, or eat it just be safe with your pumpkins this season. There are so many great ideas on the internet with things to do with pumpkins and when it comes to decor we have tried just about everything especially since having kids. The past few years we have carved them but quickly disposed of the pumpkins so that we didn’t have the rotting porch mess that many people find lingering even past the first snows of the year.

If you decide to cook your pumpkin be sure that like with anything in the kitchen that you wash the surface properly as this is grown on dirt just like many other fruits and veggies that we handle on a daily basis. I like to use a deep roasting pan when baking my pumpkins to ensure that the oven stays as mess free as possible and it also makes removing the flesh a lot easier as well.

We wish everyone a happy pumpkin season and hope that you enjoy every bit of pumpkin delight this year that you hope for!

By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)