How to get more out of your Halloween pumpkin

If you delight in the flavor and fun of pumpkins this time of year, you’re not alone. Pumpkin spice latte, anyone? Pumpkin has seen a huge surge in popularity, and you’re bound to see it pop up in food, beverages, candles and anything else you can think of. But have you ever made more use of the pumpkin you buy from your local farm or market each year? If not, you’re missing out. Here are a number of ways to make the most of your Halloween pumpkin:

Carve it

At nearly a week out from Halloween, it’s a great time to pick out pumpkins for carving. On average, between five and eight days is about how long you can expect a carved pumpkin to stay in good shape. However, if you want your pumpkin to last longer, there are a few things you can do to preserve it.

When you select your pumpkin, examine the stem and make sure it is firm and still attached. That’s a good indication that the pumpkin is healthy. Grasp the pumpkin around the base of the fruit instead of carrying it by the handle, which would risk breaking it.

If you do decide to carve your pumpkin, once you have removed the pulp and cleaned out the inside, you can take a few steps to prevent rot. Wipe off any excess dirt from the surface of the pumpkin. Then make a bleach solution in a spray bottle or use a spray solution with bleach and douse the entire pumpkin, including the surface, cut areas and inside. This will kill the bacteria that causes the pumpkin to deteriorate. After bleaching the pumpkin, rub petroleum jelly over the cut edges. Taking these steps after carving your pumpkin will maximize its time delighting (or frightening) your front porch visitors.

Eat it

Pumpkin is very nutritious and full of Vitamin A. One versatile use of pumpkin is to make a puree, which can be used for different holiday recipes (as a replacement for canned pumpkin) and frozen for later. Just cut your pumpkin length-wise, scoop out the pulp and seeds and cut off the stem, and place the two halves face down in a baking dish and bake. Then you can scoop out the flesh and puree it.

Pumpkin is also ideal in a smoothie or a shake. There are plenty of recipes online for delicious beverages involving pumpkin. Don’t forget pumpkin when you’re making breakfast, too — breads, muffins and pancakes all are tasty options.

The seeds from a pumpkin are a popular fall treat, and there are countless ways to season them. After separating the seeds from the pulp, rinse them thoroughly. Drizzle the seeds in oil on a baking sheet and bake for simple, delicious roasted pumpkin seeds, or flavor them with seasoning. Sugar, cinnamon or honey can make them sweet, or use salt for a more savory snack. Toss them in a salad for added protein. As for the pulpy innards you removed earlier, these can be used to make pumpkin stock for soups and casseroles.

Decorate it

One way to make pumpkins last much longer is to not carve them up at all. There are plenty of ways to decorate pumpkins without making a single cut. The skin of a pumpkin takes very well to paint, leaving endless possibilities to embellish the outside. You can even coat your pumpkin with chalkboard paint and then write on it with chalk or a chalk marker. Use stencils to draw or paint more intricate designs on the surface of your pumpkin. Thumbtacks are a fun twist and easy to decorate with; just use a hammer to tap the nailheads into the pumpkin. You can also use a drill to make small holes for a larger design that shows when lit from within.

Beautify with it

As you probably now realize, pumpkins pack a lot of powerful nutrients. This carries over to skin treatment, too. Use pumpkin puree in homemade facial masks and body scrubs and reap the benefits, including clearer skin.

This year, when you’re picking out your pumpkins, think about all the different uses. You might even find yourself picking up a few more than normal!

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How to Get More Out of Your Halloween Pumpkin originally appeared on usnews.com

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