Top tips for pumpkin carving
Celebrating the spooky season doesn't have to be scary for the environment. From collecting natural materials, to creating a striking window display with pumpkins and using the leftovers in a delicious recipe, there are lots of ways to have a waste-free Halloween.
Instead of buying plastic decorations why not embrace the tradition of pumpkin carving? You can also bring the magic of autumn inside the house by decorating the windows with twigs, leaves and foliage you find on a walk.
In this article:
" The fantastic thing about carving or using these veg as decorations is that nothing needs to go to waste."
Getting the most out of your pumpkin
Lyndsay Hooper, our expert pumpkin carver from Charlecote Park in Warwickshire, knows everything there is to know about creating vegetable carvings that will brighten up your neighbourhood.
1. Choose your vegetable
Buy local where possible and select a pumpkin, squash or other vegetable that’s in season. Whatever you choose it needs to be edible for humans and wildlife, and needs a good enough surface for marking your design on. Don't be put off by weird-shaped produce – the more uneven, knobbly or bizarre the better, as it adds character to your creation.
2. Plan your design
Draw your design on a piece of scrap paper first so you can test it out. Remember to keep it simple. Why not try something different from the usual spooky faces and be inspired by nature? From birds, to trees and leaves, there's lots of beauty to be found outside this autumn.
When you're ready, draw your design out onto your pumpkin or vegetable with a pencil to create a cutting guide.
3. Cut, scoop and carve
- Place the pumpkin or squash on a damp cloth to stop it slipping. Grab an apron, sturdy spoon and craft or kitchen knife.
- At an angle, cut a large circle around the stem and remove the top part to get to the insides of the pumpkin.
- Scoop the seeds and pulp out into a bowl and place them to one side for later.
- Carefully carve your pumpkin design using your guide and save any chopped pieces.
- Once you've finished, place a candle or reusable battery-powered tea light inside to light up your pumpkin.
- When not in use, reuse the stem circle as a lid which will help keep your pumpkin fresh for longer.
4. Recycle and re-use
Provided your pumpkin hasn't been painted, no part of it needs to go to waste. Everything can be recycled.
- Pulp can be roasted or pureed for cooking, seeds can be roasted or given to the birds and squirrels.
- Make crisps and chips with thin slices or roast and bake the fleshy parts you carved out from your design.
- If you want to, you can include the insides in our delicious recipe with chard, feta and almonds to create a showstopping crumble.
As your pumpkin starts to wilt or comes to the end of its life, refashion it into a bowl-shaped birdfeeder in the garden or on your windowsill. Alternatively, chop it up into small pieces and add it to your – or a neighbour's – compost heap. Your pumpkin will make fantastic food material for worms and other organisms to break down into beautiful soil for your garden or allotment.
Top tips for autumn decoration
Be inspired by nature
Take a walk and look at what might work as decoration – if they work together in the natural world, they'll work visually in your home too.
Go for colour
Why not create a display of colourful leaves, arranged under a squash or pumpkin or under your own twig tree?
Keep it natural
Conkers, pinecones, twigs, berries and leaves are all great materials for an autumnal display. You can dry the leaves before you use them by laying them flat on a piece of paper.
Experiment with interesting shapes
Try a quince on a mantlepiece or shelf – it’s a beautiful fruit and shares a lovely scent.
It doesn’t need to be complicated
A simple display of twigs, berries and leaves arranged in a vase can be just as eye-catching as something more elaborate.
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