PHOENIX – The pumpkins are among us, waiting to be carved, baked and displayed around the Valley. But once the glow of jack-o’-lantern hearts fade to black, they usually are tossed out with the garbage.
But pumpkins don’t have to be left to rot in the trash, their potential withering away amidst sediment and debris.
Here are five ways people and organizations are repurposing pumpkins by composting, donating or cooking them.
Curbside composting pickup
The Method: Composting your pumpkin at home
Type of Pumpkin: All (whole pumpkins, pumpkin seeds, strings, jack-o-lanterns)
Places to Go: Your home, Recycled City
Composting is a centerpiece of Recycled City. Its composting program expands peoples’ abilities to compost, without all the hassle.
J.D. Hill, co-founder of Recycled City, designed a subscription system for customers to discard their pumpkins and other materials for composting, hassle-free but at a cost. The company, which has several pickup programs at different rates, charges $10 for a once-a-month pickup of a five-gallon bin of discarded foods for composting, according to its website.
“We accept all of our customers’ pumpkins,” Hill said. “Since the pumpkin is too big for the bin, they’ll just set it next to the bin. We’ll be making the trips all throughout November with extra bins on the truck just for the pumpkins.”
Drop-off compost services
The Method: Composting your pumpkin with a business
Type of Pumpkin: All (full pumpkins, pumpkin seeds, string, jack-o-lanterns)
Places to Go: Phoenix Renews, Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe
Two groups will allow people to drop off their pumpkins for composting.
Terry Gellenbeck, recycling director for Keep Phoenix Beautiful, said jack-o-lanterns are prime ingredients for a healthy compost.
“Most of the pumpkins that we will get here are from the people here that have them at home,” Gellenbeck said. “Jack-o-lanterns are very watery, so those are great for composting.”
Phoenix Renews, an urban gardening group, works with Keep Phoenix Beautiful to take in vegetables and other food scraps for year-round composting. Gellenbeck expects to get a few leftover jack-o-lanterns remains for their developing compost pile at the Central and Indian School location, 4221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 85012. The facility is open year-round, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
“We’ll take the ones that people bring,” Gellenbeck said. If the pile gets overrun, he said the organization will send them to other organizations for composting.
And Recycled City collaborated with Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe, Arizona in a push to compost remaining pumpkins from the brewery’s upcoming Fall Festival Oct. 29, where more than a hundred pumpkins will be carved.
Erin Schultz of Four Peaks said people can bring unwanted pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns to the Tempe brewery Saturday, Oct. 29, through Nov. 1. Drop them off at the south side of the brewery near the recyle and trash bins.
“Like you do your Christmas trees, you can bring your pumpkin there,” Schultz said. “You will be able to bring your pumpkins to the Four Peaks location on Wilson Street in Tempe, and we are going to have a big bin there for anybody to bring their pumpkins to, and we’re going to compost them all,” Hill said.
The Method: Feeding pumpkins to the animals
Type of Pumpkin: Whole pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns
Places to Go: Local wildlife rescues and reserves, local farms
Robert Richardson, owner and operator of Macdonald’s Ranch in Scottsdale, donates unsold pumpkins to the local wildlife reserve, among other uses.
“There’s actually a wildlife refuge up the road that takes a pretty good bunch for their animals to play with and eat on, too,” Richardson said.
Robyn Moul, assistant education director at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, asks people to donate pumpkins to the center for its “Howloween Party” trick-or-treating event Friday.
After the event, she said workers will give pumpkins to the animals to enjoy.
“They’ll drool and roll over it. And Leo, the hybrid (leopard-jaguar), will push it around a little bit,” Moul said.
“Not one animal here doesn’t love to play and chew on pumpkins,” Moul said.
Food bank help
The Method: Donating pumpkins to a food bank
Type of Pumpkin: Full pumpkins, no signs of rotting
Places to Go: St. Mary’s Food Bank
Kris Mendoza, senior manager of food resourcing at St. Mary’s Food Bank, said most food banks will gladly take pumpkins.
Richardson, the ranch owner, is one donor for food banks.
“We don’t any of them go to waste, that’s for sure,” Richardson said. “Any pumpkins that are still good, we try to donate them to the local charities that might want to make pumpkin pies.”
The Method: Whip up a pumpkin goodie
Type of Pumpkin: All (Whole pumpkins, pumpkin guts, jack-o-lanterns)
Places to Go: The kitchen
Pumpkins’ life cycle can end as a cookie or other snack.
“Get the baking pumpkins, like a squash or gourd, and you can use them for pumpkin pie or pumpkin mousse,” Gellenbeck said.
Carving pumpkins to small, sweeter-tasting baking pumpkins can be transformed into cakes, pies, cookies, soups and even beer.
Ambitious cooks can turn pumpkin seeds into a snack, he said.
“That’s a real popular snack in Arizona and in the West,” Glennbeck said. “They’re actually pretty good.”
(Video by Katelyn Greno/Cronkite News)