It may be no surprise that October is National Pumpkin Month, so it’s more than fitting that October 26th is National Pumpkin Day, and it certainly seems like you can’t swing a black cat without hitting a sign for pumpkin-spiced everything these days (please don’t actually swing cats, of any color… it won’t end well for anyone involved.) Setting aside an entire month to celebrate pumpkins might seem a little extreme, but this versatile vegetable has a wide variety of uses and importance in history. Pumpkins are actually a variety of squash native to North America, which are becoming increasingly available in a wide range of colors, shapes, sizes, and even flavors. As such, there are a wide range of ways that you can incorporate the mighty pumpkin into your own home.
Beyond the myriad of decorative uses that we’ll explore below, pumpkins are first and foremost a food that can be used in a variety of ways. As a winter squash, it’s one of the few vegetables produced toward the end of each zone’s growing cycle, becoming ripe in September or October. Almost all of the pumpkin plant is edible – the seeds when roasted make a particularly delicious snack. But most recipes deal with the meaty part of the shell, which can be roasted, pureed, boiled, baked, steamed, sauteed, or turned into a soup. Mashed pumpkin is a fun alternative to potatoes and of course everyone is familiar with the delicious pumpkin pie, a staple of many Thanksgiving tables. Other countries have found interesting ways to serve pumpkin including Thailand’s approach of steamed and stuffed with custard for dessert, or Italy’s method of using pumpkin as a savory stuffing for ravioli.
One fun approach to incorporating pumpkins into your decorating plans is to plant a real-life pumpkin patch, particularly if you have a full-sun flower bed that is looking bedraggled by late May or early June. Pull out your early-blooming annuals, mix a lot of compost into the soil, then plant the seeds in little mounds of dirt. You can also start the seeds in peat pots two to four weeks before planting. Once the plants are established and pumpkins begin to grow, add some decorative “Pumpkin Patch” signs and a scarecrow farmer to your garden for a whimsical decorative addition to your front yard.
There’s really no limit to the ways in which pumpkins and other seasonal decorations can be used indoors to really set the mood for cooler weather and to welcome in the fall holidays. Some playful ideas include:
- Pumpkin themed or shaped place mats with matching orange, yellow, and brown napkins.
- Miniature pumpkins as tabletop or end table decorations.
- Remove the top and carve out the center for a unique pumpkin vase. Cut the stems of your flowers relatively short, divide them into several bunches, then group the stems of those bunches with rubber bands. The volume of the flowers should help to hold each other up in the relatively wide mouth of your pumpkin vase.
- Pumpkin serving bowls. A scooped out and well cleaned pumpkin can also make a delightful serving bowl for dips, candies or chips. If it’s anything that won’t tolerate moisture from the pumpkin itself, line the opening with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Ghost pumpkins, heirloom pumpkins, warty pumpkins, and turban squash. Gone are the days where everyone is looking for that perfectly formed, uniformly orange large pumpkin. These days, the weirder the better! As such, farmers are taking delight in raising a wide range of interesting heirloom varieties and hybrids, that can be incorporated into a conversation-starting centerpiece or mantle decoration. Other gourds make for great complimentary decorations.
- Carve a decorative opening into the side of some small pumpkins to create seasonal votive candle holders.
- Pumpkin aromatherapy. When thinking about adding pumpkin to the home, don’t forget that you aren’t limited to visual displays. A pleasantly mild pumpkin spice scent diffuser or candles can add to your inviting fall ambiance, but be careful not to overdo it. Strong scents can be overwhelming and even give some people a headache.
- The classic Jack O’ Lantern. When planning out your fall decor, don’t forget this tried and true decorating classic, particularly if you have kids. Pumpkins are a fun way to engage the family in creating their own design and getting messy in bringing it to fruition.
There are also pumpkin themed interior decorations. You can swap out curtains, artwork, decorative pillows, hand towels, nick-knacks, and even bedding for fall-themed alternatives. Subtler references might be a simple burnt orange or brown, or you can go full-on with pumpkin patterns. Kids of all ages tend to love putting up clings in windows, and around October pumpkin shaped ones are easy to find. You might want to find ceramic pumpkins – or particularly small baby pumpkins – to put in clever places around the house, perhaps peeking out from behind a book or picture frame, though if you have children or cats, plastic or plush pumpkins might be a better bet. Creating seasonal artwork to be rotated in and out can be a great project for children.
Before you write to our editor: yes, botanically pumpkins are classified as a fruit because they are the seed-bearing organ of a flowering plant. However, culinary pumpkins are considered to be a vegetable due to their savory nature and ways in which they are used for cooking.