Pumpkins are more than decoration


ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) – There has been a recent wave of news reports complaining that pumpkins are producing methane in landfills. The claim is that all pumpkins used as fall decorations will take up space in the landfill and lead to a terrible build-up of methane.

Well, it’s kind of true.

All food sources are organic matter and whenever an organic element breaks down in an anaerobic (lack of oxygen) environment such as a landfill, it releases methane. But all other organic food waste, from coffee grounds to banana peels, also contributes to the production of methane in landfills.

And let’s not forget that pumpkins are edible vegetables. They are one of the many winter squash vegetables such as acorn, spaghetti, butternut, kabocha, and other types of squash. The name winter squash is incorrect. Winter squash are planted in the summer and harvested in the fall. Thanks to their nice, firm rind, we can store and consume them all winter.

Your yellow crookneck squash is called summer squash because its thin skin does not allow it to be stored for that long. Both winter and summer squash are grown in the warmer months, but only winter squash can be stored for months into the winter.

Add to this squash riddle that all squash, melons, squash and even cucumbers belong to the cucurbit family. If you take a moment to think about how each of these items look when they are opened, you will understand why they belong to the same family. All are summer annuals. Each has a fruit that has an outer rind, followed by a luscious flesh, then flattened seeds in the middle of each fruit.

But getting back to the misalignment of pumpkins as huge producers of methane, no other vegetable or fruit is bought as decoration and then thrown away. Imagine buying watermelons and displaying them on your porch in June to celebrate the coming summer, then simply throwing them in the trash. Or what if you made a table arrangement of cucumbers and yellow summer squash for a summer meal, and never ate them. It would be really strange.

Yet pumpkins, some larger than a basketball, are used for decorations and then thrown away without any thought. So what can we do about it?

Below are three options.

First, eat them. This option only works for intact pumpkins that have not been carved or have other issues (like rots or signs of animals feeding on them). Roasted pumpkin seeds are a great nutritious snack. A quick internet search for pumpkin recipes will give you a lot of options. And yes, there is more to it than pumpkin pie. Make sure to use the words “fresh pumpkin” so you can skip canned pumpkin recipes.

The second is to give the pumpkin to the wildlife. The seeds and flesh will be appreciated by birds and many small animals. Wildlife experts suggest that you cut the pumpkin into small pieces and place it away from your home so as not to encourage wildlife to feed too close.

Finally, although the landfill is by necessity an anaerobic site prone to methane production, you can compost your pumpkin aerobically and use the finished compost in your landscape in the spring. Composting is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to recycle. Done well, compost piles are supposed to be turned regularly and full of air. This aerobic process removes most of the methane gases that might form.

There is no need to feel guilty about contributing to the buildup of methane gas in the environment. Kudos to everyone who recycles their fall ornaments and repurposes the humble pumpkin for a second (and possibly third) additional use.

Copyright 2021 KTRE. All rights reserved.

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