By now, you’ve already received too many suggestions of what to do with your excess pumpkins and you’ve made a few salty ones of your own. Worse yet, we’ve still got more than two weeks to go, but unlike turkey, pumpkins are as decorative as they are tasty. And they don’t have snoods. That alone puts them ahead of the game.
My favorite pumpkin use is as a succulent planter. If you’ve seen these popping up all over, you may have thought that the succulent was sitting inside of a hollowed out pumpkin, but the succulent is actually sitting on top of reindeer moss attached to the top of the pumpkin.
Choose your pumpkin. I like the white above, because it blends into my home décor better than garish orange does. Try to get one with a flatter top, because the succulent will sit aloft it. Cinderella pumpkins are great because they’re not just flat on top, but have deep grooves making it easier for the moss to cling. This will make your creation more plant like because bits of plant and moss can fall over the pumpkin crevices.
When choosing your succulent, remember that you have color choices there as well. You don’t have to go for the green. They’re often sold in assorted color packages. So, you can buy bundles if you want to make a number of plant pumpkins as gifts.
Decide how long you want your decoration to last and buy accordingly. The larger succulents may outgrow the pumpkin before the holidays are over. Also, be careful to select succulents that will blend well together. You will have to arrange them as you do flowers, so don’t get uneven sizes or colors that, when combined, will look more like rubbish than art.
Next, glue the reindeer moss onto the top of the pumpkin. You can use tacky spray or clear glue. Attach the moss before it dries. The moss isn’t a plant. It’s like fungi or algae and does not have to be watered or fed. It can absorb its nutrients from the air.
Once the moss is affixed, use a hot glue to join the succulents to it. You also glue sprigs, sparkle, mistletoe or little holiday decorations to the mix, to make the pumpkins more festive.
While the succulent pumpkins can be enjoyed indoors or out, it is better to take them inside at night, if you want them to last longer. Spray the moss lightly with water once a week, to keep it moist, but don’t let water accrue at the top or bottom of the pumpkin, because that will accelerate rot. Even if you decide to put it outdoors, place a flat, dry surface under it, rather than simply sitting it on the porch or lawn.
Once the pumpkin has run its course, you can move the succulents into a potted plant and let them continue thriving.
Pumpkin Bowls. Their roundness makes them as useful as any other container, for flowers, for food, even for drink. Just hollow out and clean your pumpkin of seeds. If you cut the top off neatly, it can be used as a lid to the hollow pumpkin, which makes for a nice serving presentation.
Prawns in hollowed pumpkin.
Roasted pumpkin seeds. When you hollow that pumpkin out and remove the seeds, save and roast them. Pull off the strings from the pumpkin guts, but don’t wash the seeds. It’s better to have them completely dry for roasting. Put them on a baking sheet and spritz them lightly with extra virgin olive oil or even butter. Then, you can sprinkle them with anything you like, depending on your flavor mood: salt, sugar, soy sauce, or five-sauce powder. You can even use a combination of the same.
Back them at 300 degrees until they are golden brown (about 35 minutes), but check them often because they burn quickly. Let them cool, before enjoying.
Pumpkin butter. Hmmm, butter. Pumpkin butter is fragrant and lightly sweet. It’s a bit like apple butter, but smoother and less grainy. It can be used in pancakes, donut batter, yogurt and ice cream, cookies and, of course, on toast or muffins. Here’s a recipe:
5-7 pound butter
3.5 cups sugar
1.5 cups honey
1 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoon of ground all spice
Wash the pumpkin and section it into small pieces. Clean off the seeds and string. Place sections in a 6-quart pot and pour in just enough hot water to cover the section. Bring to a boil at medium heat and then let it simmer on low for about 20 minutes, until the flesh is tender. Then drain the water off. Remove the peel of the pumpkin with a spoon or dull knife. Puree in a blender or food processor. Put the puree back into the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the puree thickens, about 10-20 minutes.
When the puree has the consistency that will let you mound it on a spoon, stir in the remaining ingredients and then simmer again in an uncovered pot, but in small batches of no more than 4 cups per pot. Keep stirring until the pumpkin is thick enough to spread and doesn’t separate and get watery if you spoon it onto a plate.
Place the pumpkin into air tight containers, about four cups in each. Refrigerate for 3 days. You can serve it at room temperature. Pumpkin is often associated with dessert foods, but it works well with meat too. Even though honey was used as an ingredient, the butter is not as sweet as honey and enhances, rather than overpowers a dish or snack.