This year, nearly 147 million pumpkins will be carved into jack-o-lanterns, and nearly all of them will be thrown away, contributing to the 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. that gets wasted.

 

Instead of tossing your pumpkin, you can decorate it and eat it, too. Pumpkins are delicious, versatile—think soups, muffins and pie—and packed with good-for-you nutrients like beta carotene, potassium and vitamin A.

To Carve…or Decorate?

 

You’re probably wondering whether it’s safe to eat a carved pumpkin that’s been sitting on the porch for weeks. According to Kroger Chef Kirsten Dockendorff, the answer is a definite No. “If you want to cook a jack-o-lantern, you should carve and cook it the same day,” says Kirsten Dockendorff, product development chef at Kroger.

“Carve before the trick-or-treaters come knocking, then roast it that night.”

Or, she says, put it the fridge to roast the next morning. And if you intend to eat your jack-o-lantern, use LED lights or fake candles instead of wax candles for their eerie glow.

 

If you want to decorate your pumpkin before Halloween night, don’t carve it. “Use non-toxic paint, markers, or other removable decorations,” like thumbtacks says Chef Kirsten. An uncut carving pumpkin will keep for five to 10 days at temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees (Hello, perfect fall weather!), reports NPR.

 

“And, remember to clean your pumpkin thoroughly with water and a vegetable brush before cooking to get rid of any wax or pesticides, and to remove the skin before eating” says Chef Kirsten.

Prepping a Carving Pumpkin

 

Here’s how Chef Kirsten recommends prepping the flesh of your carving pumpkin to use in recipes:

 

Step 1: Halve your pumpkin, then cut the stem off. Scrape out the seeds and save them to roast later.

Step 2: Cut pumpkin into wedges and spread over one or two sheet pans.

Step 3: Roast at 400° for 50 to 60 minutes, until soft.

Step 4: Let pumpkin cool slightly, then carefully peel off the skin and throw it away.

Step 5: Puree the flesh in a blender or food processor.

Step 6: Pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, and let puree drain in the fridge overnight.

 

You can store the puree in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Roasting the Seeds

 

Roasted pumpkin seeds, tossed with a little salt, can make for a tasty snack, or the seeds can be used in recipes.

 

Step 1: To get rid of that stringy pumpkin flesh sticking to your seeds, put them in a bowl of water and use your hands to separate the seeds.

Step 2: Let the flesh sink to the bottom, and use a strainer or spoon to get the seeds out of the water.

Step 3: Dry them on a paper towel-lined pan overnight. This way they’ll get really crispy when they cook, not soggy.

Step 4: Toss them with ½ tablespoon oil for every cup of seeds, plus a little salt, and roast on a sheet pan in a 325° oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

 

You can store the cooled pumpkin seeds in an airtight bag or container at room temperature for up to 7 days.

 

Find and share the recipes from Chef Kirsten below to repurpose your Halloween pumpkin into sweet, savory snacks!