These are dark days for pumpkins everywhere: as Halloween draws near, countless numbers of the sweet, starchy squashes will be eviscerated, their innards hacked away at with hammers, screwdrivers and those stupid scraper-scoops that show up in drugstores once a year. And it's not just American pumpkins that meet this violent end: across the pond, in the UK, Halloween is growing in popularity, and two in five Brits now buy pumpkins each October. But while Americans love to dine on their Jack-o-Lanterns' guts, spinning the bright orange flesh into pies and oven-crisping the seeds with all manner of spices and flavorings, Brits tend to dump their pumpkin carvings straight into the trash.
Last Halloween, 36 million pounds of squash ended up in British landfills. Martha Stewart just spit out her pumpkin spice latte.
But that figure is making one man, Trewin Restorick, pretty angry. The founder of Hubbub, a UK-based charity, he recently launched a "Pumpkin Rescue Campaign" that aims to enlighten Britons on the edible glories of the humble squash, encouraging them to stir up dishes such as pumpkin soup which, although popular in the US, seldom appear on British dinner tables.
"There is not a tradition of eating pumpkins" in the UK, Restorick says. "People think it's a hassle and that pumpkins are tasteless. We certainly don't have traditional pumpkin recipes."
"Pumpkin waste is indicative of a wider problem," he says, noting that UK citizens throw away over 14 billion pounds of edible food and drink each year. That's significantly less than the amount of food wasted in the US per year—about 133 billion pounds—but Britain is also far less populated than the US, with only 64 million people compared to our population of 316 million. So any way you slice it (and then throw it in the trash), that's a lot of wasted bread.
Restorick foresees a reversal of the food waste trend, as more and more British households look for ways to be frugal in the face of the financial crisis.
"More people are writing shopping lists, being more careful about food waste and changing their shopping routines," he says.
And as October 31st approaches, he's urging Brits to see that there's more to a pumpkin than its unparalleled ability to show off a tea candle: it's also damn tasty. Restorick's favorite way to eat pumpkin? Baked into a savory tart packed with creamy ricotta and accented with fresh ginger.
"It's a bit of a hassle," he says, "but amazingly tasty."
Hopefully, Restorick's pumpkin-hating countrymen will give squash cookery a try, or just trash the idea altogether.