With Halloween just around the corner, you may be wondering about the link between the pumpkins scaring the neighborhood kids and the ones in the can you’ll be using to make pumpkin pie in less than a month. Can you use the Jack-o-Lantern to make the pie? Short answer: Yes, but you might not want to.
Pumpkins (and squash) are part of a large family of hard-shelled vegetables that ripen in the fall, and can be stored for winter consumption. The big, round, really orange pumpkins used to make Jack-o-Lanterns and other Halloween or Thanksgiving decorations have been bred specifically to use in decoration. They are larger and have a longer, stiff stem that’s perfect for carrying around. The pumpkin flesh and seeds are edible, though not as tasty as pumpkins grown for eating and if a pumpkin has been carved up and sitting out on your porch for a few days — they may be too gross to eat. And, if you put a candle in it: No.
While edible, decorative pumpkins are not nearly as sweet and delicious as pumpkins bred specifically for pie, soup, muffins and other fall goodies. The so-called pie pumpkins include varieties such as the cheese pumpkin (it looks like a wheel of cheese), Jarrahdale, and the Sugar Pie pumpkin. Here’s a report on a side-by-side test of various pie pumpkins and squash. For baked goods, I prefer butternut squash, especially the variety Honeynut, which is smaller than other butternuts and sweeter.
What to do with your leftover Jack-o-Lanterns?
They make an excellent addition to the compost pile, breaking down quickly and helping to heat up the pile. They also are excellent food for wildlife. Last year, I got lazy and forgot to put my Jack-o-Lantern in the compost. Pretty soon, the local squirrel started gnawing on it, and by spring, it was long gone. You can also roast the seeds from inside the pumpkin to add to your bird feeders.