The importance of terminology – Pumpkin Waste

Glut & Excess – The years final quarter defined

Hallowe’en marks the beginning of the festivities that bring us through to the end of the year. The coming months will be defined by indulgence, rich foods, glut and something more sinister, excess. Often overlooked and something most of us contribute too, both knowingly and unknowingly, excess defines the final quarter of the year. Excess often equates to waste. Needless waste that we’ve accepted is the norm and do not challenge during this time of the year.

In the UK, pumpkin is incredibly underused and contributes vastly to food going to landfill during October. With 90% of pumpkin sales happening in October the scale for pumpkin waste is enormous. It’s estimated that 18000 tonnes of pumpkin is throw away each year. That is the equivalent of 45 million cans of soup (based on a 100% pumpkin 400g average can).

When engaging people in discussions it became clear that many people regard pumpkin as either unappetising or they lacked the knowledge and confidence to do anything with them. Whilst others were not aware pumpkins could be eaten in the first place.

The importance of terminology

Retailers¬†don’t help the matter either with many contributing to the detachment of pumpkin being a food source. Terminology used by Sainsbury’s (2016) labels pumpkins as “carving pumpkins” which dissociates the notion of that pumpkin being edible. When challenged, Sainsbury’s initially came back with a rather lack-lustre response. When prompted again, they said they had raised the matter with management. It’ll be interesting to see how they’re labelled next year.

Terminology is incredibly important and the power it can have on consumers is not to be taken lightly and retailers should take responsibility for how they go about defining and labelling products. Praise must be given to Waitrose and similar stores, who one, label the same pumpkins as “culinary pumpkins” and two provide a range of squashes to choose from. It small things like this that evoke the much needed engagement and spark that train of thought and conversation around the notion of utilising squashes and pumpkins in a more sustainable and waste-free way. With the range of weird and wonderful squashes out there, it makes you question whether you need to get carving in the first place, or if perhaps you could have the pumpkins as they are as features to be used later in meals.

Pumpkins and squashes are incredibly versatile. They can be steamed, roasted, boiled, baked, fried and suit both sweet and savoury dishes. They’re a good source of vitamins and nutrients such as carotenoids, vitamin E and A. So throwing away such goodness is a real shame.

Ideas to alleviate pumpkin waste

Pumpkins are just like any other squash, so this year, think twice before discarding them, and if you’re really not keen on eating them, rather than sending them to landfill, compost them. Many supermarkets and community groups are offering free composting services this year, where you can bring your pumpkin waste in and they’ll do the rest for you.

Pumpkin seeds

Packed full of goodness such as zinc, iron and vitamin E, pumpkin seeds are an excellent snack where the room for exploration is vast. the base method below can be adapted, so incorporate and experiment with different flavours for a delicious snack made from something you’d have otherwise thrown away:
  • Chilli flakes and sea salt
  • Honey and cinnamon
  • Garlic and chilli flakes
  • Smoked paprika
What to do:
  1. Scoop out the seeds, wash them to remove any of the stringy strands and then dry them.
  2. Spread onto a baking tray and drizzle over a little oil (a flavourless one preferably).
  3. Roast on a low heat for 25 minutes – 100C until they’re a light golden brown. (a lower, slower roast helps not deteriorate the vitamins and minerals)
  4. Leave to cool and then store in an air tight container

Recipe ideas

  • Pumpkin Mash – You could go for a pure pumpkin mash or add it into a potato based mash
  • Vegetable Broths – utilise your vegetables and add pumpkin into
  • Pumpkin Pie – popular with the Americans, pumpkins can be used in sweet desserts, and veg in sweet things always makes us feel a little better about eating a tonne of dessert right?
  • Pumpkin and Feta Samosas or puff pastry pie
  • Love Food Hate Waste¬†have a range of recipes and Wise Up to Waste and Hubbub are hosting pumpkin rescue festivals and have great advice about what you can be doing with those pumpkins.

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