Though it’s not most people’s first-choice pumpkin for cooking, the iconic Howden pumpkin is, in fact, edible

By Matthew Kassel
October 23, 2019

It’s easy to forget that Halloween pumpkins are edible. Especially after you’ve carved and field-dressed them, having scraped out their innards and cut faces into them so they become jack-o’-lanterns. I’m not talking about their seeds, which are, of course, a savory and worthwhile snack when roasted and well seasoned. I mean the flesh itself. 

This is a useful thing to keep in mind if you are thinking about creative fall recipes—and how to get as much use out of the ingredients you have on hand. Those ingredients may be sitting right at your front door.

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The best way to take advantage of a Halloween pumpkin is to turn it into pumpkin purée. This takes a little more effort than simply hacking a buck-toothed smile into its front—or buying a can of the stuff at your local grocery store—but it isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. One way to do it is to cut the pumpkin into segments and roast those segments in the oven. The skin will then peel off easily and you’ll have some tender flesh that you can blend in a food processor. 

You can also cut the pumpkin into segments, trim away the orange outer layer with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife and chop the segments into smaller pieces, which can be roasted, steamed or boiled into a nice paté.

Recently, I brought home a large Halloween pumpkin, chopped it down into one-inch chunks and then boiled them—a strangely satisfying task, as you watch the transformation from pumpkin to paste. I harvested about three or four cans’ worth of purée from my pumpkin, which can be frozen or put to use right away in pies, breads, soups and other dishes

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I won’t blame you if you’re furrowing your brow at the suggestion that you can make pumpkin bread from a jack-o’-lantern. It’s true that carving pumpkins—more formally known as Howden pumpkins—aren’t so ideal for cooking. They are stringier and more watery than other smaller, meatier pumpkins that are more traditionally used in recipes.

But having already put my purée to use, I have to say that I was quite pleased with how it held up. I used one cans’ worth—or about two cups—to make a couple of loaves of rustic pumpkin bread, which was enhanced with the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Then I used the rest to make a large pot of fragrant pumpkin soup, using coconut milk, vegetable stock, and curry to fill it out. Delicious. 

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I’m not saying that you should convert every pumpkin you buy into purée. That would be a lot of work (and a lot of pumpkin!). But it’s certainly fun to try on a pumpkin or two that you picked up to place throughout the house for Halloween flair; not to mention, it’s far more sustainable than just letting pumpkins rot on your doorstep. 

 

*Note: We do not suggest attempting to cook with a pumpkin that has been carved and left to sit outside, as this could be potentially dangerous. Use only pumpkins that have been left whole for cooking purposes. 

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