As the leaves turn brown and collect on your patio sofa cover, pumpkins appear on front porch and store displays one by one. From Halloween to Thanksgiving, pumpkins more than any other fruit or vegetable, are the star of the fall season. What if a single pumpkin could inspire a whole world of creativity? Anyone can carve a Jack o’lantern or whip up a pumpkin pie, but only someone with autumn ingenuity can think outside the pumpkin patch and turn one orange orb into a utilitarian essential for fall.
Slice and Dice
When carving your pumpkin, resist the urge to get knife happy as you make your first few cuts. Start by sawing around the stem of the pumpkin, creating an opening wide enough to reach inside and scoop the innards out before placing them into an airtight container or freezer-safe plastic bag. Separate the seeds into their own storage receptacle as you go (hint: you’re going to use both of these later).
Use a permanent marker to etch a freehand design onto your pumpkin or use a box cutter to lightly stencil a design printed from the web. As you get into the details of the carving, be mindful and deliberate with your cuts. The pumpkin’s thick skin can make it difficult to get a precise cut during your first try. Use a light to medium hand as you go until you get a handle on a technique. There’s no wrong way to carve a pumpkin and most mistakes can be played into the kitsch of Halloween.
Once carved, you can give your pumpkin a two-in-one upgrade with a simple paint job. Highlight and accentuate your handiwork by filling in the areas around your Jack’s eyes and mouth to add definition and give your pumpkin broader daytime appeal. Want to go one step further? Build a character for your jack o’ lantern. What’s his name? Does he have an occupation? Asking yourself these questions as you will open your creative ingenuity tenfold. You can add character without a trip to the craft store. Common household items can be fashioned into costume accouterments for your pumpkin.
Avoid tacking or gluing anything directly onto the pumpkin. This prevents any chance of add-ons catching fire when the candle’s lit. You can however, dress the area around the pumpkin to build a Halloween illusion for both daytime delight and nighttime creeps. Items like a personalized sofa cover, lounge chair covers, or loveseat covers can be custom printed with graphics that accentuate the stage you’re setting for your fall display pumpkin.
After the spooking season ends, you can give your Jack o’lantern second life as a pumpkin planter. The average lifespan for most pumpkins ranges anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks, giving you plenty of time to create the perfect autumn ornament for your deck or patio.
- To transform your pumpkin, recarve the top opening, widening it as much as possible in order to place a small pail or bucket inside to fill with potting soil or decorative moss.
- A mix of marigolds, wildflowers, sedums, and sunflowers captures the essence of autumn.
- Finish off your pumpkin planter with leaves, small branches, and pinecones from your own backyard for texture.
As your autumn arrangement wilts, consider composting the organic matter of your deteriorating pumpkin. Composting your pumpkin provides nourishment to your backyard garden bed and can be an especially fun way for kids to say goodbye as they smash the gourd into its final resting place.
Easy as Pie
Creative autumn confections are rich in comfort and perfect for using the pumpkin innards you preserved at the start of your jack o’ lantern journey. In a large bowl, mix half of your now defrosted and sauteed pumpkin meat with two skinless, fork-tender sweet potatoes or yams. Add ¾ a cup of brown sugar, two teaspoons of cinnamon, ½ a teaspoon of salt, a clove of crushed ginger, and two sticks of unsalted butter.
Next, roll out canned croissant dough, distributing each triangle with your filling before sealing and crimping the edges with a fork. Turn the burners of your outdoor kitchen stove up to medium-high with a skillet over the flame. Fry your pies using a tablespoon of butter per pie until golden brown. As they come out of the skillet, drain the excess grease by placing your pies on a layer of paper towels. Serve with a drizzle of a powdered sugar glaze. Repeat the process with the other half of your pumpkin filling, making adjustments where necessary.
Seed the Harvest
From carving to composting, who knew a pumpkin had so much creative potential? You started with a gourd full of potential and are now left with the seeds. An autumn trail mix is a perfect way to finish off your pumpkin. All you have to do is heat up your seeds in a dry pan on medium-high heat until they’re toasty. This process brings out oils from inside the seed’s hard shell, adding more flavor. Salt your seeds as they toast for about three minutes, shaking the ban occasionally. Mix your seeds with the dry fruit and nuts and bag individually for a sweet and savory autumn snack.