With their rich autumnal hue and buxom shape, pumpkins are as dazzling as they are delicious. Peak harvesting time for this versatile vegetable (although technically a fruit) is autumn – the season of crisp mornings, crunchy leaves and, of course, Halloween, the calendar event for which these deep orange orbs are a steadfast symbol. This guide explains how to choose, carve and cook pumpkins, including a spooky selection of Halloween food ideas.
How to carve a pumpkin
Ready to create a scary carved pumpkin? Huge pumpkins with flat bottoms are best for jack o’lanterns, or try something a little different and opt for a ghoulish ghost pumpkin. Whichever one you choose, follow the handy four-step carving guide below from our pumpkin supplier Barfoots.
CHOOSE YOUR PUMPKIN
Pick a medium or large-sized pumpkin. Draw a line around the top and cut out a lid. Scoop out the flesh and set aside for either cooking or compost. It’s a messy business, so work outside or on a well-covered surface!
DESIGN YOUR PUMPKIN
It’s time for the best bit – outlining pumpkin designs! Be imaginative and create all sorts of facial expressions, artistic scenes or shapes (even simple polka dots are surprisingly effective). If you aren’t naturally artistic, try using templates.
CARVE YOUR PUMPKIN
Wear thick gloves and use the correct tools (like precision knives) remembering not to leave them anywhere within reach of children or pets. After this tricky-but-fun part, use props and paint to enhance your decoration.
LIGHT YOUR PUMPKIN
Candles are traditional – just be sure to clear the area of any flammable material, keep them out of reach and blow them out at bedtime and when you leave the house. Alternatively, use artificial tea lights, fairy lights and/or glow sticks; your display will be most effective with a mix of designs. Scary pumpkin carving complete – happy Halloween!
Mild, sweet and earthy, pumpkins offer a plethora of possibilities for everyday meals and weekend bakes. From cheesecake to traybakes, this striking winter squash can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes to bring seasonal warmth and flavour to your table.
Pumpkin SEED recipes
Pumpkin seeds are great for adding crunch and flavour to all sorts of dishes – and they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Follow our three-step guide below to prepare them before sprinkling on soups, salads and granola, or cook them into these delicious recipes.
Preheat the oven to 150°C, gas mark 2. Scrape the seeds from the pumpkin, transfer to a bowl of cold water and soak briefly. To dislodge stringy bits of flesh, move the seeds back and forth between your fingers. Don’t worry if you leave a few on.
Drain the seeds and dry well with a paper towel or clean tea towel. Line a baking sheet with parchment and add the seeds, drizzling over a little olive oil and seasoning with a pinch of salt. Toss to coat, then spread the seeds out in a single layer.
Transfer to the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes until the seeds start to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet before using in recipes or transfer to an airtight container (keep for three days at room temperature).
If you don’t fancy carving a pumpkin, how about fashioning something fun using fruit, like a petrifying pineapple or wicked watermelon? You can snack on the leftover flesh or blend it into a smoothie. If you like the idea of a Halloween pumpkin but want to reduce food waste, opt for no-carve pumpkin ideas. Buy a culinary pumpkin and decorate the skin with paint, marker pens and accessories like googly eyes and fake spiders – then cook with the flesh once Halloween is over. Uncarved pumpkins typically last over a month.