Halloween is almost upon us and pumpkins are now synonymous with this Autumn festival. Many of us will be buying a pumpkin to hollow out and make into a spooky Jack O Lantern but there are lots of other things you can do with a pumpkin – here are a few ideas to keep you busy this Halloween:
Everyone enjoys hollowing out a pumpkin to make a scary Jack O Lantern face for Halloween. If you are doing this with young children please make sure you supervise at all times and they will need your help to cut shapes using sharp knives. Also, be prepared, as carving a pumpkin is a messy business! Start by cutting a lid out of the pumpkin around the stalk, ensuring the hole is big enough to get you hand in to remove the insides.
Next use spoons to scoop out the seeds, pulp and strands. Scrape out the flesh of the pumpkin so the walls are about 2cm thick. Now it’s time to carve your design. It’s easier to carve straight lines rather than curves or circles. Traditionally triangle shaped eyes, nose and a zig zag mouth are carved but you can choose any design – be as creative as you like. It’s a good idea to draw your design on the side of the pumpkin so you can cut round the lines. If you are not confident at a design of your own you can get pumpkin stencils to copy.
Once your design is complete, put a tea light inside the pumpkin (it’s best to put it in a small glass) or use battery operated tea lights or fairy lights to create the spooky glow. Put in your window to scare your neighbours and any trick or treaters!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are full of vitamins and minerals and are a great source of fibre so when you hollow out your pumpkin don’t just throw the seeds away. Try roasting them to make a tasty, healthy snack. Clean the seeds and boil for 10 minutes to soften.
Drain and dry on a clean tea towel. Toss seeds in a little oil and spread evenly on a baking tray. If you want to add some flavour then sprinkle with salt, pepper, cinnamon, sugar or any flavouring you like. Bake in a pre-heated oven (120oc) for about 45 minutes until crisp and golden brown. You can simply snack on the roasted seeds or use in other recipes, such as brownies, or sprinkle over a salad.
Pumpkin Seed Art
Another way to use the seeds of a pumpkin is to create a picture or mosaic with them. Separate the seed from the pulp and wash them thoroughly. Leave to dry then use water-based paints to paint them. You can roll the seeds in the paint or just paint each one with a brush. Spread out and leave the paint to dry. Once dry, stick onto paper to create a picture or mosaic. You could draw the outline of your picture and then fill in the gaps with the coloured seeds.
Use a pumpkin to makes an unusual plant holder! Cut off the top and remove the seeds, strings and flesh from inside. Fill halfway with compost, place a plant into the pumpkin and fill around the plant with more compost. You can use this as a seasonal table centrepiece or simply place outside for decoration. After a few days, plant the whole thing in the garden – the pumpkin with naturally compost and provide fertiliser for the plant.
Pumpkin Bird Feeder
Push two sticks or dowel rods from one side to the other to create a cross shape – the overhanging sections will act as perches for birds. Tie string individually around each stick close to the pumpkin and attach together to create a hanging loop. Hang up outside on a bird table or tree, fill with bird seed and leave for the birds to enjoy.
Pumpkin Serving Bowls
Turn pumpkin shells into seasonal serving bowls. Simply wash the pumpkin and cut the top off to the desired height of the bowl. Scoop out the insides and clean out the pumpkin.
Use straightaway to hold what you want to serve. If you want to use the pumpkin bowls to hold sweets or biscuits, you could line the inside with cling film, foil or a plastic bowl. A great way to greet any trick or treaters at the door – a pumpkin filled with treats for them to choose. Pumpkin bowls will not keep so once used, discard or put on the compost heap.
Get outside and enjoy an autumn day by having a pumpkin hunt. It doesn’t need to be complicated – just hide a few pumpkins around the garden and get your children to search for them. You could just hide one big pumpkin and have clues to find it, or you could hide lots of little pumpkins for children to collect.
If you don’t want to use real pumpkins, you could cut out cardboard pumpkins and hide these. If the weather is too wet, then bring the game indoors and hide pumpkins around the house or a room.
Cooking with Pumpkin
When it comes to pumpkins many people simply hollow it out, throw away the middle and use the shell to carve a Jack O Lantern. However, all the stuff that you scoop out of the pumpkin can be used to make some delicious dishes – both savoury and sweet.
Cooking with children is fun activity and a great way for them to learn all sorts of things from maths and measuring to science and language. There are lots of things to choose from including pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins – search online for pumpkin recipes and try something new.
Similar to potato printing, cut shapes out of the shell of a pumpkin, dip into paint and print onto paper. Children can make all sorts of designs and patterns in this way.
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