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No Pumpkin Guts, No Glory: Cooking with Pumpkin Innards

By: Kenneth Cervantes

Carving jack-O’lanterns has always been a beloved Halloween tradition. You go to your local supermarket or pumpkin patch, find the plumpest pumpkin in the bin, and then go home and start whittling away at the orange flesh until you’ve created your favorite design. But after admiring your masterpiece, you realize you’re drowning in gourd guts! What do you do with that pesky pumpkin pulp? Hopefully, you’re not tossing those pumpkin innards into the trash can where they’ll be sent to a landfill.

Food waste is an ever-growing crisis that’s destroying our planet. According to the NYC Food Policy Center, in New York state alone, 3.9 million tons of food waste are produced each year, and if that waste doesn’t wind up in landfills, it will pollute our streets and waterways.

“Creating more food waste causes increased greenhouse gas emissions, which leads to climate change,” said Kelly Andreuzzi, president of the Environmental Action Coalition at Adelphi.“If we reduce the amount of food we throw away, we can improve the quality of the air we breathe and prevent this waste from ending up in lower-income communities.”

Reconsider throwing away those stringy scraps and try cooking with them instead. From light snacks to sweet treats to cooking and baking essentials, here are some ideas on how to cook with pumpkin guts inspired by the Inspired Taste Recipe and food blog.

If you’re craving something salty, roasting those pumpkin seeds is a quick and easy fix. Did you know that your medium-sized pumpkin can contain up to 500 seeds? After scooping them out, they may be a bit sticky so add them to a colander and rinse off any excess pulp with cold water. Once rinsed, pat your seeds dry with a paper towel to remove moisture and keep that crunch you’ll need for roasting. Evenly spread your seeds on a lightly greased baking sheet and add a teaspoon of kosher salt, a teaspoon of smoked paprika and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne powder if you want some extra spice. Roast at 350°F for 12-15 minutes, tossing the seeds every five minutes. When your seeds are golden brown with a nutty aroma, they’re ready to snack on.

With a plethora of autumnal recipes using pumpkin purée, making a homemade version will give you that cozy fall feeling. Now that you’ve already made some seeds to munch on, you can add the pulp to a food processor and pulse until you achieve a smooth consistency. That same pumpkin you’re using yields 1.5 cups of puree, which is just enough for an 8-inch pie. Whether you want to bake some pumpkin bread or add a creamy texture to your risotto, you won’t find yourself running to the store to get the canned version ever again.

Home cook and Hempstead native Cristian Henriquez said he uses his homemade pumpkin purée in his pumpkin bisque. To give his purée a little kick, he even adds a few cloves of fresh garlic.

“It has a richer texture and a sweeter, more robust flavor than the stuff you buy at the grocery store,” Henriquez said. “I love using homemade items in my dishes because of the authentic feel.”

Not only will you be saving the environment from detrimental pollution but cooking with those pumpkin innards provides some nutritional health benefits.

Lauren Ciuffo, Adelphi's on-campus registered dietician, said, “Pumpkins and other brightly colored squash are packed with beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation in the body, strengthen the immune system, and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.”

Save your planet from pollution, cut back on food waste and give yourself a health boost. Think about that this Halloween before tossing those pumpkin guts into the trash. Even the tiniest scraps of food can make for a hearty, wholesome meal.

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