Pumpkin spice and everything nice

It was a long hot summer, and the crisp, refreshing fall air is finally here. Now it is time to change over the decorations, break out the scarves and flannel, and find uses for those pumpkins you have been nurturing. Pumpkins, sometimes known as winter squash, come in beautiful colors often associated with fall. Those gorgeous deep yellows, ranges of orange and even white will have you running with joy through the fall leaves and excited to decorate your home and office.

big, small, orange, green, lumpy and multicolor pumpkins
Pumpkins can add a little pizazz to your fall décor and a little culinary flair to your fall meals. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

Pumpkins can be used for adding a little pizazz to your dinner plate, spicing up your latte or adding a scary element to your Halloween decorations. Pumpkins also have great nutritional value and can add vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and essential fatty acids to your diet!

field of harvested orange pumpkins
Fresh pumpkin can be used for many dishes and drinks, and seeds can be roasted for snacking. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

Do you like the idea of decorating with pumpkins while adding beautiful fall flowers to your home? Here a few “pumpkin hacks” to inspire you to add a little flair to the fall season. Try creating a pumpkin vase by cutting a hole in the top of a medium to large pumpkin. Clear out the pulp and seeds (save the seeds for later). Place a glass filled with water inside the pumpkin and add your favorite fall flowers. Submerging the flowers in water will help keep them fresh for a longer period.

Not into decorations but want to enjoy the flavor profile of pumpkins in your culinary adventures? A quick search for recipes can yield many delicious dishes. Fresh pumpkin can be turned into a filling soup or a pumpkin pie using ingredients you likely have on hand.

large pumpkins surround a trough full of small pumpkins
Medium pumpkins are great for making fall flower vases. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

One of my favorite recipes is to slow-roast pumpkins and turn them into a puree to add to my chai latte. While you can technically use any pumpkin, I like to use pie pumpkin. These tend to be on the sweeter side.

To make a puree from a fresh pumpkin, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and slice your pumpkin in half through the stem. Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts from inside the pumpkin. Use a baking sheet to roast the pumpkin until tender. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cooking time may also vary based on oven type and elevation. Once cooked, allow the pumpkin to cool. Use a spoon to scoop out the cooked pumpkin. You can mash the cooked pumpkin by hand, with a food processor, or my favorite – an immersion blender. Puree until the texture is to your liking.

If you are using your puree right away and are ready to make your pumpkin chai latte, heat your favorite chai mixture on the stove, add your favorite milk and fresh pumpkin puree, and mix to enjoy a delicious warm drink on a beautiful, cold fall day. You can also freeze your puree mix to use for another day.

Remember those seeds you saved? Boil the seeds for about 10 minutes in salt water, then drain and roast the seeds in the oven with a little olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper. They can be a delicious fall snack that will keep you heading back to the bowl for more.


Leilani Konyshev is the Master Gardener Program assistant for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Have questions about your plants? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com.