CASA GRANDE -- Halloween pumpkins are not just for carving.

With Halloween over, it may seem like the season of pumpkins has come to an end, but pumpkins are great in lots of culinary uses. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s a good time to experiment with some of the great-tasting uses for the often overlooked pumpkin.

In the U.S. more than a billion pounds of pumpkins are grown for commercial use every year. They tend to fall into two categories — decorative and pie pumpkins.

Most of the pie pumpkins grown in the U.S. are for commercial processing uses such as pie filling.

While pumpkins grown for jack-o’-lanterns and other decorative uses aren’t ideal for cooking, they are edible. They tend to be a bit more fibrous, with a thick, tougher shell and generally contain less fruit inside the shell.

Pie pumpkins tend to be a bit smaller and more meaty. They’re recognizable by their shell, which tends to be a deeper, darker color than most jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.

But while jack-o’-lantern pumpkins aren’t ideal for eating, like other pumpkins, the entire fruit is edible except for the stem, and the soft flesh inside the shell is versatile. It can be boiled, baked, mashed, juiced, pickled or used in a variety of recipes.

The seeds are a great snack.

If cooking with leftover Halloween pumpkins, only use a fruit that has not yet been carved — don’t try cooking a jack-o’-lantern that has been carved and left sitting outside.

In this easy-to-make dessert, slices of pumpkin bake in a sweet caramel sauce until they are sweet, tender and scrumptious. Sweet pumpkin in caramel sauce is perfect on its own or served slathered over vanilla ice cream. A combination of star anise, cloves and cinnamon give this sauce a unique flavor that people will love.

Pumpkin in caramel sauce

Also known as calabaza en tacha

In this recipe, butternut squash can be substituted for fresh pumpkin fruit.

1 pumpkin — I used a 5-pound decorative pumpkin but any kind works

1 cup brown sugar

1 piloncillo

2 cinnamon sticks

3 star anise

10 whole cloves

5 cups water

In a pan on top of the stove, bring the water, sugars and spices to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer.

Wash exterior of pumpkin. Cut off top and bottom and remove seeds. Cut pumpkin into slices.

Place slices in a roasting pan (I covered mine with foil before baking) and poured liquid over pumpkin slices. It’s OK if the slices overlap one another.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about an hour until pumpkin is soft and tender.

This dessert may be eaten as is or over ice cream.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Seeds from inside any kind of pumpkin

2 tablespoons melted butter

Salt to taste

Remove seeds from pumpkin and wash them well. Boil for about 10 minutes. Spread seeds onto a baking pan and pour butter over seeds, then sprinkle with salt.

Roast in 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

Pickled pumpkin

2 pounds fresh pumpkin meat, cut into cubes

1 cup white wine vinegar

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

8 whole cloves

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

Zest of 1 orange

Combine water and vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, add the pumpkin, cover and allow to sit for a few hours or overnight.

Remove the pumpkin from the pot and bring the water-vinegar mixture to a boil. Add sugar and spices and continue to cook over medium heat for about five minutes.

Place pumpkin in preserving jars. Pour liquid in jars, completely covering pumpkin. Place lid on jars and seal. Store in refrigerator.


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at