Home & Garden

Beyond jack-o'lanterns

Plumbing experts have some words of advice when it comes to turning pumpkins into glowing Halloween jack-o'-lanterns:

Don't dump the pumpkin guts down your drains or you risk clogged pipes.

"The seeds are hard and I've seen them jam a disposal," says David Mason of Mason & Son Plumbing in Newport News, Va.

"The guts are also stringy and slimy and cause other stuff to attach and stop up the drain. Sometimes, there's so much it won't even make it around the turn of the trap."

Hampton Roads Sanitation District in southeastern Virginia also recommends jack-o'-lantern creators think twice before putting all that potentially hardening pumpkin pulp where it doesn't belong.

"It can also clog toilets and should not be flushed," says Rhoda Bowen, recycling manager with the sanitation district.

"Flushing could cause problems further down in the sewage system."

Instead, work pumpkin pulp into your garden or compost pile.

"Birds also like to feed on it," Bowen says.

If you don't have a compost pile, dispose of the pumpkin innards in the trash can. Separate out the seeds and roast them or dry them for a treat, or save them for spring planting. Pumpkin seeds also are great for the bird feeder.

Tips for carving

Spread out old newspapers in your carving work area, preferably outdoors.

Create two piles -- one for the gooey pumpkin guts and one for seeds. Using a sharp knife (adults only), cut a circle around the stem and remove the top.

Use a large strong spoon to scoop out the pumpkin pulp and seeds.

Separate the stringy core from the seeds.

Draw your pattern on the front of the pumpkin and carve your design. (Be sure to supervise children old enough to carve their own jack-o'-lanterns.) Fun and frightful 18th century-inspired patterns can be downloaded at www.history.org/kids/ games/pumpkinpatterns.cfm.

Place a candle inside; consider using one of the new flameless wax candles, which are battery operated and safer to use.

Save the seeds for roasting; you don't even need to rinse them because a little pumpkin ooze enhances the flavor when baked. If you do rinse the seeds, do it at an outdoor spigot to avoid the drain problem, according to Roto Rooter plumbing and drain service.

See a photo gallery of how to properly carve a pumpkin at www.HRHomeandGarden.com.

Toast the seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter over the bottom of a roasting pan. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on the roasting pan. Add salt to taste.

Bake on the top rack for 20-30 minutes, until the seeds begin to brown.

When brown enough to your liking, remove the seeds and allow to cool.

Tip: You can add spices like cinnamon, cayenne, oregano or even hot sauce for more flavor options.

Recycle pumpkins

After Halloween, bury your jack-o'-lantern in the garden or compost pile where it will decompose into organic material.