Eat your pumpkin

Lexi Lichtenstein, Sustainability Officer at Arthur David, Food with Service, writes our latest blog post. Arthur David is a food wholesaler based in Bristol who supply many of Bristol’s restaurants with produce and who are encouraging their customers to make the most of every part of the pumpkin this year to reduce waste.

As we head towards Halloween this weekend, while the usual Trick or Treating and house parties will not be able to take place this year, the tradition of pumpkin carving will undoubtedly still go ahead, with lots of fantastic designs being showcased on doorsteps and in windows. But how sustainable is this practice?

Here at Arthur David, Food with Service, we have just begun our sustainability journey, being acutely aware of the crisis our planet is facing and the fact that we, as individuals, communities and businesses, need to make a change to minimise the negative impact we are undeniably having on the planet. Having appointed a Sustainability Officer this year to focus on this vast task, we are currently reviewing all aspects of the business and the impact these operations have on the environment. One hugely significant element of sustainability is food waste: as a company, we appreciate fruit and vegetables for their taste, nutritious value and versatility to be used in a whole manner of dishes. We want to encourage as many people as possible (customers and beyond) to limit the food that ends up in the bin or on the compost heap, and to get creative with the ways that they use every part of a food source. We therefore cannot help but feel saddened that, in the UK alone, a whopping 12.8 million pumpkins are predicted to go to waste this year!

There is so much that can be done with the flesh, skin and seeds of a pumpkin that it is completely absurd to simply throw it away during the carving process. Even worse, the classic jack o’lantern pumpkin is increasingly grown in such a way as to reduce the flesh within, making them easier to carve! This risks a change in attitude as to why we grow fruit and vegetables and, subsequently, is decreasing the value we put on amazing food sources.

This is why we are fully supporting Hubbub and Bristol Food Network with the #EatYourPumpkin campaign, and want to share some ways in which you can best use your pumpkin after carving it and, better still, encourage people to buy pumpkins that are suitable for both carving AND eating.

A pumpkin is edible in its entirety, meaning there is no reason not to ensure the whole thing is utilised. Below are just a few recipes and ideas:

If, like me, your pumpkin carving goes wrong and cannot be salvaged, rather than throwing away the hollowed-out pumpkin, why not roast it? Cut away any of the skin with pen on it from drawing your failed design, then cut up the remainder into nice-sized chunks: put them on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil and your choice of seasoning (I went for garlic cloves, honey, and rosemary) and put into the oven at around 200°C until soft and golden brown. This is a delicious accompaniment for a roast dinner or even on its own as a tasty snack!

If there’s not a lot of flesh on the skin to make it worth roasting, cut or tear the peel into medium-sized pieces, put on a baking tray and sprinkle with your choice of seasoning. Dehydrate (using either a dehydrator or in the oven, on the lowest temperature with the door slightly open, overnight): healthy, delicious crisps are served!

If a few days after Halloween your pumpkin is looking a little worse-for-wear and is no longer any good for human consumption, now is the time to compost it to use for growing more goodness! Or cut it into smaller pieces and leave in your garden for squirrels and local wildlife to consume (not a good idea if mould has developed or if rats or foxes are prevalent in your area). Ensure the pumpkin is placed in a tree or raised from the ground, as it can be toxic to hedgehogs. Alternatively enquire with local farms, wildlife parks or community gardens to see if they accept old pumpkins.

But how do you combat pumpkins being grown for the wrong reason? First and foremost, choose your pumpkin carefully, avoiding those purely grown for decorative purposes. Instead of going into your local supermarket for the large, yet hollow jack o’ lantern pumpkin, why not explore your local greengrocer for a more fruitful alternative? Buttercup squash; kabocha squash; crown prince pumpkin; white pumpkin (ghost) and Jarrahdale pumpkin are all great alternatives to the carving pumpkin that can be used for both carving and eating, and will certainly bring out your creativity.

If you have outdoor space, why not save and dry out some of your pumpkin seeds, ready to plant for harvest next year? It is becoming increasingly popular for friends and families, with and without children to go to select and pick their own pumpkins from farms, with a fair amount of both excitement and pride being felt as a result of the effort gone into obtaining their pumpkin to carve. Why not go one step further and plant your own seeds in your garden or allotment, experimenting with variety so that, come October, you have an array of pumpkins to cook, carve and display? It’s great for children in particular, putting an emphasis on the connection we should be having with our food, learning where it comes from, how it grows and why fruit and veg is so awesome! If space is an issue and you do not have a garden or allotment, it is worth asking your local school or nursery if they have a plot you can use: mutually beneficial as it could become something the children monitor and learn from as a class!

Pumpkin seeds

Food waste is heartbreakingly present in the UK and the only way we are going to eradicate this is by flaring people’s creativity, excitement and value toward the food we grow, produce and consume. Let’s start here by vowing to #EatYourPumpkin!

Be sure to share your creations using the hashtag #EatYourPumpkin, and check out Hubbub, and Arthur David, FWS’s social media pages on Facebook and Instagram for further information and ideas for your pumpkins, as well as two awesome competitions you can enter to win some fantastic goodies!

The need for a resilient food community has never been greater: be part of the movement to stop food waste in Bristol by taking action now. The coronavirus pandemic has already led to unforeseen challenges for our city’s food system, and unimagined resourcefulness from communities and organisations across Bristol. Read more about why ‘going green’ is good for your food business.

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