NWR hosted a BYOP Pumpkin Carving Party back in October & wants to share with you all the packet they gave to participants full of useful information about pumpkins!
History of Pumpkin Carving
The Irish brought the tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack O'Lantern to America. But, the original Jack O'Lantern was not a pumpkin. Pumpkins did not exist in Ireland. Ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland carved turnips on All Hallow's Eve, and placed an ember in them, to ward off evil spirits.
The Tale of Stingy Jack and the Jack O' Lantern
Jack O'Lantern legend goes back hundreds of years in Irish History. Many of the stories, center round Stingy Jack. Here's the most popular story:
Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who took pleasure in playing tricks on just about everyone: family, friends, his mother and even the Devil himself. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. After the Devil climbed up the tree, Stingy Jack hurriedly placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. Unable to touch a cross, the Devil was stuck in the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died. Once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses, and the Devil climbed down out of the apple tree.
Many years later, Jack died, he went to the pearly gates of Heaven and was told by Saint Peter that he was mean and cruel, and had led a miserable, worthless life on earth. Stingy Jack was not allowed to enter heaven. He then went down to Hell and the Devil. The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared. He had nowhere to go, but to wander about forever in the dark Netherworld between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave, as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell, to help Stingy Jack light his way. Jack had a Turnip with him. It was one of his favorite foods, and he always carried one with him. Jack hollowed out the Turnip, and placed the ember the Devil had given him, inside the turnip. From that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his "Jack O'Lantern".
On all Hallow's eve, the Irish hollowed out Turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. They placed a light in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. These were the original Jack O'Lanterns. In the 1800's a couple of waves of Irish immigrants came to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out. So they used pumpkins for Jack O'Lanterns.
Did You Know?
With all the good ole’ fun it’s no wonder that pumpkins are also good super-foods for our health and boost your immune system. Pumpkins are full of vitamins and minerals essential to living a healthy life! That rich orange color we all love is full of beta-carotenes which turn to vitamin A in your body. Beta-carotene has been shown to lower heart disease and is full of antioxidants. Pumpkins are also low in sugar and high in fiber which helps your digestion. With all those health benefits I’m so glad that there are so many healthy recipes to try, especially with a super-food like pumpkin.
What to Do with Your Carved Pumpkin After Halloween:
Carved pumpkins will rot quickly, so it’s best to get them off your stoop and put them to work as soon as possible.
Compost It- Pumpkins are full of nutrients, which makes them a great fertilizer. Just make sure you remove the seeds before you add them to your compost pile (unless you want baby pumpkins cropping up in your garden next year).
Bury It- No compost pile? No problem. Simply bury your jack-o-lantern in your winter garden. It will decay quickly and enrich the soil.
Share It -You may be done with your jack-o-lantern, but the leftovers are a delicious snack for animals like deer, squirrels and birds. Place your pumpkin in a spot where you don’t mind a little wildlife activity and let the feast begin.
Pumpkin Puree- This is an easy and popular pumpkin dish. Simply cut your pumpkin in half or in quarters, scoop out the seeds and guts, and place your pumpkin face down in a baking dish that’s filled with 1 cup of water. Bake for 90 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh is tender, then scoop it out and puree it in a food processor. You can use this to make pumpkin pie, cake, pumpkin spice latte, muffins or bread!
How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree
Prep Time-1 hrs 15 mins, Cook Time-1 hrs, Serves: 5 1/4 cups (approximately)
Ingredients- 2 sugar/pie pumpkins
Instructions- Snap or cut off the stems and cut each pumpkin in half. Be careful when doing these steps. To make it a little safer, slice off the top or bottom of each pumpkin to create a flat and more stable surface to cut the pumpkins). Scoop out the insides with a spoon or ice cream scoop and save the seeds for roasting. Place the halves on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350º for about an hour or until a fork slides through easily. Remove from the oven and let them sit to cool. When they have cooled off, flip them over and scoop out the insides with a spoon. Place the insides into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Refrigerate your puree or separate it into 1 cup portions, place into freezer safe containers and freeze.
Recipe Notes- I always process two pumpkins at a time because that is the size of the baking sheet I bake them on. Feel free to do more if you have the space. Be sure that your baking sheet has raised edges because the pumpkins release a lot of moisture while baking. Depending on the size of your pumpkins and how many you bake, the amount of pumpkin puree you end up with will vary. In my case, I ended up with 5 1/4 cups. Homemade pumpkin puree will keep in the refrigerator for about a week and a half. Homemade pumpkin puree will keep in the freezer for 6-8 months so you can enjoy pumpkin desserts for months to come!
Eat The Seeds- If you’re looking for a healthy snack to munch on for the rest of fall, look no further than your pumpkin! All you need to do is wash, drain and toast the seeds, then add the seasoning of your choice. For specific instructions, try this recipe from FitSugar.
Turn it into a Planter- Post-Halloween pumpkins make for a unique addition to your winter garden. To convert it, cut a large hole at the top and hollow out the center. Then drill a small hole at the bottom for drainage and fill the pumpkin half-full with potting soil. Add some seasonal plants like pansies or thyme, water thoroughly and enjoy your seasonal planter!
Prepare For Thanksgiving- One fall holiday is over, but there’s another one right around the corner. Upcycle your Halloween pumpkin by turning it into a Thanksgiving centerpiece! As long as your pumpkin wasn’t damaged or munched on by animals during its stint on your doorstep, it should last for a few months before it starts to rot. If you want to give it a nice shine and preserve it better, rub some Vaseline into a rag and buff the surface.
Pumpkin Lasagna-Ingredients: Oven-Ready Lasagna Noodles, 2 jars Three Cheese Alfredo Sauce, 28 ounces Pumpkin puree, 2 TB Brown Sugar, 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice, 32 ounces Whole Milk Ricotta, 1 tsp Garlic Salt, 1 tsp Italian Seasoning, 2 (12 ounces) packages Chicken Apple Sausage, 2 (10 ounces bags) frozen spinach, drained, and 2 (8 ounces) bags Shredded Mozzarella- Visit Pinterest for more info.
Pumpkin Facial Mask- Recharge your skin with pumpkin’s good-for-you vitamins A, C and E.
2 Tbsp organic canned pumpkin puree or 1 small pumpkin
1/2 tsp organic honey
1/2 tsp milk (I used skim, but you can substitute soy or almond)
1: Start with clean skin. Remove all makeup and wash your face with your regular cleanser.
2: Combine pumpkin puree, honey, and milk in a small bowl and mix well. If using a fresh pumpkin (or leftovers from a carved jack-o-lantern), scrape the insides and remove the seeds. Beat the gooey insides to a creamy pulp and mix with honey and milk.
3: Apply the mask using your fingers or a medium-sized makeup brush; avoid getting the mixture too close to the eyes. You can also apply to the neck and décolletage, but you’ll probably need to double the ingredients.
4: Allow the mask to set for about 20 minutes.
5: Gently wash off the mask with a warm, damp washcloth and follow with a moisturizer.
Pumpkin Pie Play Dough-1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup water, 2 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp cream of tartar, 1/3 of the jar of pumpkin pie spice (the tiny jar), maple extract, vanilla extract, food coloring.
Combine the dry ingredients and the oil. Slowly add the water. Add a few dashes of each of the extracts and a few drops of red and yellow food coloring. Cook over medium heat, stirring until stiff.
As it mixes you can see if you'll need more food dye. We tried to be conservative at first, because I didn't want it to be too vibrant. We added a little at a time until we achieved the right color. Once it's finished cooking, turn out onto wax paper and allow cooling. The pumpkin pie spice was too spicy by itself, for my liking. The extracts make it smell sweeter, just like a pumpkin pie. Sniff the dough. Does it smell too spicy? Add a little bit more extract and knead it all together. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it's too dry, add a few drops of water.
Pumpkin Seed Oil Uses & Benefits
Pumpkin seed oil leans more on the side of carrier oil than an essential oil. But it still has some great health benefits to it. The oils are harvested by experts. They use a press to extract the oil from the seeds. This is done with precise pressures and temperatures to avoid oxidation or destruction by heat. There are a variety of oils to use during the fall and winter season, but one of the main ones is the pumpkin seed oil. But it is not well known.
Arthritis & Inflammation: Pumpkin seed oil can be used to treat joints and inflammation when taken in capsule form. This is because it has high levels of fatty acids and antioxidants along with other compounds that are often reported that they help reduce inflammation and therefore reducing pain as well.
Prostate Health: Another great use for the capsule form of pumpkin seed oil is to help support prostate health. It is full of fatty acids and high phytosterol content. Studies have shown that both of those compounds help to support a healthy prostate.
Skin Health: Pumpkin seed oil is fast absorbing oil when it is applied to your skin. It is said to make the skin look and feel great, almost new again. This is because it is full of vitamins A, B, E and K as well as antioxidants and fatty acids. All of these are required for healthy skin.
We hope you enjoyed the content that we provided at our Pumpkin Carving Party & hope to host it again next year. Please feel free to comment with any questions, ideas & whether you tried any of the activites/recipes above!