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Halloween just past last weekend. How many of you have some form of pumpkin decorating your house; maybe a jack-o-lantern? I’ll bet some of you wonder if there are better ways of disposing of poor, old jack once he goes rotten, year after year, rather than throwing him in the trash (unless you are in San Francisco). Well, you are in luck! Here I have compiled a list of some creative ways people deal with their leftover pumpkins and a bit of lore, too.

  • Cooking
    This is probably the most common (and obvious) use of the pumpkin. If you have yet to carve yours out, don’t throw those guts away! Most parts of the pumpkin are actually edible, including the seeds and the shell. When ripe, pumpkins can be boiled, baked, steamed or roasted, as well as mashed, pureed or turned into pumpkin soup. And let’s not forget the big holiday favorite: pumpkin pie. Be sure to look online or through your cookbooks for recipes, and if you plan to use anything other than seeds for cooking, make sure the pumpkin is not rotten before using it!
  • Chucking
    Yes, Pumpkin Chucking is becoming quite the fun way of disposing of your unwanted pumpkins. This fun activity involves teams working to build the best pumpkin launcher/destroyer. The purpose of the event is to throw the pumpkin as far as possible. In the past, devices such as catapults, trebuchets, ballistas and even air cannons have been used for this crazy event. If you do decide to have your own chucking event, be sure you take it to a large field. I highly doubt your neighbors would want pumpkin chunks hurling through their windows.
  • Pumpkin Festivals
    Many places the world over hold pumpkin festivals, including the US and Ireland. Usually the big deal with these events is the pumpkin competitions, to see who can grow the biggest and best pumpkin (which is not much use if you’ve already carved yours out). Ireland’s event includes entertainment and parades, or you can attend the Pumpkin Fest in New Hampshire which has fireworks and is trying to break the world record for “largest number of lit jack-o-lanterns in one place”.
  • Garden and Composting
    Of course, we can’t forget the other obvious use of pumpkins: gardening! If you haven’t gotten rid of the seeds yet, you can wash (in plain water, no soap needed) and save the seeds for planting next year. You can also put the pumpkin in your compost pile. Pumpkins make excellent fertilizers for gardens, which would be quite the coincidence if you are also growing pumpkins In your garden.

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And as promised, here is a bit of lore on pumpkins; in particular, jack-o-lanterns. The tale of the jack-o-lantern has many variations, one of which comes from Ireland, and tells of a shrewd, lazy farmer known as Stingy Jack, who tricks and bargains with the Devil, only to be doomed to wander in darkness once he died. That is, until the Devil gave him an ember that would never burn out. Jack carved out a turnip, placed the ember inside, and has endlessly wandered the Earth since; hence becoming known as “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack-o-Lantern”. An African-American version of the legend claims that Jack (known as Big Sixteen) killed the Devil and was refused entry to hell by the Devil’s widow.

Yet another piece of folklore states that the “jack-o-lantern” simply refers to a night watchman or a man with a lantern. The earliest use of this term was in the mid 17th century, and later it was used in reference to will-o’-the-wisps (a type of faerie or ghost light seen over bogs, swamps and marshes). Today, the scary faces people carve out of pumpkins are actually in reference to ghosts and spirits like Stingy Jack. In olden times, it was believed that the faces and symbols of a “damned soul” carved onto pumpkins and similar foods would scare unwanted spirits away.

Whatever your intentions are for your pumpkins this Halloween, make sure you turn your Halloween into a Hallogreen!