The vast majority of pumpkins grown and sold in the United States will never see a dinner plate, soup bowl, or pie tin. Instead, they’ll be carved and used as decoration as millions of families around the country snap up these bright, orange gourds and turn them into jack-o’-lanterns. In a way, this seems like a major waste of natural resources. I mean, squash is delicious! Are we wasting millions of pounds of delicious, gourd-y flesh every year by scooping it into a trash can?[related]
The answer, apparently, is yes and no.
According to NPR, technically the jack-o’-lantern pumpkin is edible. The Halloween icon that we’ve grown to know, love, and use our creative energies on is called the Howden pumpkin. Sturdy, round, and bright orange, this gourd has been bred specifically for decorative purposes, with a stem that acts more like a handle than anything else. Inside, its flesh is tough, stringy, and watery, making it less than ideal for your pumpkin purées. So while you can eat it, the resulting pumpkin dish won’t turn out wonderfully. (The seeds, on the other hand, can be delightful when roasted.)
So this Halloween, be sustainable in other ways, perhaps by composting your jack-o’-lantern after it’s done bringing you spooky delights. Leave your Howden pumpkin on your front porch and buy a smaller, sweeter squash for cooking. Any pumpkin varietal with “pie” in the name (Amish Pie, Sugar Pie, New England Pie) is far better suited for your cooking needs.