How to Eat a Whole Pumpkin

Sugar pie pumpkins sitting on the ground in the sun

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There's so much more to these glorious fall vegetables than just their purée!

It is pumpkin season where I live in southwestern Ontario. The beautiful orange globes add splashes of color to every doorstep, and the farmers’ markets are overflowing with pumpkins of all sizes. Many will be cooked for this weekend’s celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving, turned into pie or cheesecake, or mashed into a savory side dish.

An intriguing article by The Zero-Waste Chef alerted me to the fact that sugar pie pumpkins can be eaten in their entirety – well, mostly, aside from the stem. As part of her ongoing mission to minimize waste and teach others how to do it, the Chef embraces “nose-to-tail” cooking. This term is usually used to refer to eating animals in their entirety, including bits and pieces that one might normally toss away, but apparently it can even be applied to pie pumpkins – although we should probably call it “skin-to-seed”.

Here’s how to do it:

1 sugar pie pumpkin, clean and preferably organic

Stab it a few times around the top to release pressure while cooking. Bake in a 375 F oven, on a baking pan, for about 45 minutes, or until a knife slides easily into the pumpkin. Don’t bake too long or you’ll get hard spots.

When it’s ready, “You’ll notice its glossy surface and darker color when it’s ready. It kind of looks like it oiled itself up and spent the afternoon at the beach.”

Cut off the top and scoop out the seeds and strings, putting them in a bowl. The skin will peel off easily; keep this, too. Mash the cooked pumpkin flesh by hand or with a food mill. The Chef recommends freezing in wide-mouth glass jars or using immediately. (You could even try some of these DIY beauty treatments using pumpkin purée.)

Wondering what to do with the rest? Eat it!

You can eat the stringy bits, once separated from the seeds. The Chef munched on it raw while working, but a more appealing use is to turn them into pumpkin cider: Boil the strings to make a thin broth. Strain, then mix with apple cider and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Alternatively, boil the strings and keep the pumpkin stock for soup. You can also cook them like spaghetti squash.

Roast the skin and turn it into pumpkin chips. Tear skin into 2- to 3-inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, keeping a close eye on it at the end to ensure it does not burn.

Roast the seeds. Toss them first with olive oil, salt, cayenne, and whatever other spices you want. Cook at 350 F for 20-30 minutes until crisp and golden.

More ideas here for 28 things you can do with pumpkin guts