Beyond the jack-o’-lantern: Decorate with pumpkins & make a snack, too

autumn display with pumpkins
Create an outdoor display for autumn like this one from Goodman’s Farm Market in Niagara Falls. Photo courtesy Goodman’s Farm Market

by Connie Oswald Stofko

For Halloween and other autumn holidays, it’s fun to decorate with pumpkins, and you can do more than carve a jack-o’-lantern.

Here are a couple other ideas for decorating with pumpkins, along with a tip for cooking pumpkin seeds.

Make an outdoor display

Instead of just setting a single pumpkin on a patio table, make a still life.

This idea is from Goodman’s Farm Market, 2227 Cayuga Drive Extension, Niagara Falls.

You could start with a straw bale or bench. The display from Goodman’s uses both–  The difference in heights adds interest.

Use several pumpkins of different sizes and colors.

You could limit the items you use to only plant items such as pumpkins, gourds, mums, Indian corn and corn husks. For a party, add baskets of apples.

You can also add man-made items such as scarecrows or ghosts.

You could do the same idea on a smaller scale indoors. Set gourds around a pumpkin on a platter or mix mini-pumpkins and gourds in a bowl.

Get more ideas for still lifes here.

Make a centerpiece

white pumpkin centerpiece with succulents
Make a centerpiece using a pumpkin and succulents; workshops will be held at Lockwood’s Greenhouses in Hamburg. Photo courtesy Lockwood’s Greenhouses

This elegant pumpkin-succulent centerpiece can take you through Thanksgiving and beyond. Not only can it last for four months, when you’re finished using it as a centerpiece, the succulents on the top can be planted in a pot to continue growing as houseplants.

Learn how to make this pumpkin-succulent centerpiece in a workshop at Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark St., Hamburg.

There will be two workshops: one at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1 and the other at at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.

Lockwood’s has grown many specialty pumpkins and succulents for this workshop.

The cost is $35 and includes instruction, plants, pumpkins and care sheet.

The class is limited to 20 people and fills up fast, so sign up early.  Call 649-4684 to reserve your spot.

Tip: Boil pumpkin seeds in salt water before baking

Some people carve jack-o’-lanterns, but don’t eat the pumpkin seeds. What a waste!

Ethan Waterman agrees. He’s manager of Waterman’s Greenhouse, 12317 Vaughn St. (Route 240), East Concord (Springville).

“It’s a nice, easy treat to make after you’re done carving the pumpkin with your kids,” Waterman said.

The first thing you do is get messy and scrape out the seeds.

Next Waterman does something I’ve never tried: He boils the seeds in salt water before baking. Boiling transfers the salty taste to the seed, not just the shell, he said.

For every half cup of seeds, use two cups of water and one tablespoon of salt. If you want them saltier, add more salt. Bring the salt water and seeds to a boil, then let them simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain the seeds. Spread some olive oil on a baking sheet or roasting pan, then put the seeds on the pan. Place the pan in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes. The larger seeds may take a little longer to bake, Waterman noted. When they’re crispy and a nice brown color, remove them from the oven and let them cool.

Bonus tip: This is from Ray Crawley, store manager at Goodman’s Farm Market. He bakes squash seeds the way he would bake pumpkin seeds. He uses buttercup squash.

“You can’t tell if it’s pumpkin or squash seeds,” Crawley said.

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