Sustainable Fall Decor

By Jessica Campbell, MS, FNTP

I love pumpkins, don’t you?

They’re awkwardly beautiful in so many shapes and sizes. I love the fall colors, and they symbolize the harvest when it’s time to pick and store the last bits of produce from the garden.

Pumpkins are great because they store for months and can help you hold over with fresh produce until the winter citrus or the first spring greens.

When we think of Halloween and pumpkin decorating, we often visualize the overgrown lantern pumpkins and carve them up for one night’s joy before they rot on our front porch. Are you throwing your pumpkins in the compost at the end of the season or would you rather make the most of your fall decor?

A few years ago I learned from my good friend Christine, that un-carved pumpkins with succulents are just as cute for decor pieces on your dining table or front porch. This is an awesome tip because it’s more sustainable; you can save them, and turn them into a delicious pie for Thanksgiving! 

This quickly became one of our favorite fall traditions to decorate edible pumpkins with succulents that can be planted afterward. We glue the decorations gently on the pumpkins and then it peels off a week later when we can replant the succulents in the yard. This is a great activity to do with kids or a group of friends!

Then the best part once we gently peel everything off the pumpkin is that we can roast them, save the seeds, and eat the entire thing. This means that we get to enjoy the fall aesthetic and reduce waste. The tip is to buy a high-quality pumpkin, not sprayed with pesticides, that you can eat later. If you’re unfamiliar with the varieties, ask your local farmer’s market vendor, or just keep reading.

The different kinds of pumpkins

Did you know that there are over 50 varieties of pumpkins

This list has a good breakdown of pumpkin varieties.

The first step we need to take is obviously to figure out if your pumpkins are edible or decorative. I obviously always recommend choosing edible varieties. That way they can serve as both decoration and nutrition. 

The biggest pumpkins are not always the best for cooking with. Try to find one of the varieties below (or ask a local farmer for their recommendation), when doing your pumpkin shopping. 

Baby Bear: These only grow to about a pound and a half but are bright orange and perfect for smaller portions. You can see one in the far right of the floral tablecloth photo. An heirloom variety very similar to sugar pie but has more rich flavors and darker skin. This is perfect for one big pie.

Banana Squash: these are my absolute favorite varieties for pumpkin pie. I started growing them after I picked up one long, pink pumpkin at Swanton’s Berry Farm and I’ve been hooked ever since. I save the seeds, grow them every year, and they make the sweetest, pumpkin pie ever. 

Cinderella aka Rouge Vif d’etamps: The big, red-orange, and flattened shape in the top left of my table photo. These heirloom varieties originally from France and illustrated in the Cinderella stories are fairy tale pretty and low in water, which means less straining, yay! They puree perfect for the big batches of pies and I like to make enough for all the neighbors!

Early Sweet Sugar Pie: If you’re growing your own pumpkins, these powerful guys mature in just 90 days. A little too late this year, but add the seeds to your wish list and go for it next spring. If you’re looking for an edible pumpkin that can also be a jack-o-lantern, this would be a good choice. Simply scrape out the flesh before carving your spooky faces!

Jarrahdale: For a less orange, more spooky look, try this blueish- gray tone, chunky pumpkin in the bottom right of the wooden table photo. This heirloom variety was named after a small town in Australia and they store forever. I think I made pumpkin pies from this pumpkin for Easter Sunday last time and they were still delicious. I would equate the flavor to that of a Blue Hubbard which are great finds too, very sweet, but works well in savory dishes too.

Other recipes to make with your pumpkins

Paleo Pumpkin Chili

I love turning the less sweet pumpkins, butternut, or acorn squash into a hearty chili. The pumpkin replaces the beans, making this chili Paleo friendly, or gassy belly friendly 😉, and it can be served over cauliflower rice. We like to serve ours over basmati rice cooked in bone broth. We serve the chili over the rice mound like an erupting volcano. Honestly,  there’s nothing volcanic about this chili, even from a young age my kids could handle the mild heat.

Pumpkin Pie

You probably know by now my absolute favorite dessert in the fall is homemade pumpkin pie. My daughter shares this passion and we’ve spent the last decade perfecting what we think is the ultimate comfort food. This dish can replace breakfast on a school day, it’s so healthy for you and 10x more nutritious than a bowl of boxed cereal.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

If it’s the pumpkin pie spice you’re after, check out my quick video on how to make it in balanced ratios and see what the health benefits are for each spice. You can see the quick recipe on Pinterest too. Pumpkin pie spice is delicious over cooked applesauce, on yogurt with sliced pears, and in oatmeal with pecans and raisins.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a female’s best friend full of magnesium, zinc, fiber, and healthy fats. They’ve been known to support hormonal balances, especially when eaten with flaxseed.

Pumpkin seeds have been used historically by chicken farmers to rid their birds of parasites and many practitioners use them on humans too. The fiber helps expel blockages naturally, and the healthy fats are excellent for skin and shiny hair. Try adding them to your next trail mix or toss a handful over your oatmeal, salad, or soup. Nothing like a butternut squash soup with a few roasted pumpkin seeds on top.

Let me know how you utilize pumpkins this fall. I would love to add new ideas to my list of sustainable and waste reducing fall decor ideas! Comment and share photos on my Facebook post here!