How to Use Your Old Jack O Lantern

Halloween is past, now what will you do with your old jack-o'-lantern? An easy approach is to let it rot, but there are some useful and even fun things you can do with it. This article will help you make the most of old pumpkins!


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    Eat the pumpkin flesh. Any flesh that has been cut from the pumpkin makes for fantastic cooking possibilities. Don't throw this flesh out when making your jack-o'-lantern. Instead, either use it immediately for baking or cooking, or refrigerate it and use it within a few days. Alternately, freeze it and use it within a few months. Pumpkin flesh can be used in a range of dishes, such as pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin bread. See How to use pumpkins for more ideas of how to use the flesh removed during carving.
    • If you set whole (uncut, not carved) pumpkins out for display and want to use their flesh, rescue them at the end of Halloween night or early next morning before the squirrels, raccoons, or any other beasts start nibbling on it! Whole, uncut pumpkins will store well in a dry, cold place for a month or more.
    • To use the remaining flesh attached to a jack-o'-lantern, keep the following in mind: the jack-o'-lantern pumpkins are usually different from pumpkins used for cooking and tend to be watery, so you'll need to first squeeze out the water if pureeing. There should be no wax or other blemishes on the flesh. Finally, the jack-o'-lantern should be carved and cooked within 24 hours.[1]
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    Pickle the peel. If your jack-o'-lantern is in good shape the morning after Halloween, consider pickling the rind. The jack-o'-lantern must be clean, free of rot, and not suffering from wax build-up or smoke burns (for pickling you should use a pumpkin light in place of candles). Pickling the rind is common in Northern Germany:[2]
    • Assemble the ingredients. You'll need 3/4 lb (340 g) sugar, 2 cups (16 fl. oz) of vinegar, and a small piece of fresh ginger per 1 pound (454 g) of pumpkin rind; one cinnamon stick for several pounds.
    • Peel the outer skin off the pumpkin. The rind is the white colored part under the skin. Cut the rind into 2 inch (5cm) squares.
    • Place the pumpkin into the vinegar. Leave it to soak overnight. Drain the next morning and discard the vinegar.
    • Lay the pumpkin on a towel or cloth to dry.
    • Pour fresh vinegar into a large pot. Add the sugar, ginger, and cinnamon stick. Add the pumpkin rind and simmer over a low heat.
    • Cook without stirring until the pumpkin rind becomes translucent and yellow. This will take about 3 hours. Shake the pot occasionally to move the rind around.
    • Store. The rind can be canned or refrigerated. If refrigerated, eat within a few weeks; if canned, follow normal canning instructions and storage times.
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    Hold a jack-o'-lantern smashing party. This use allows you to keep the pumpkins a few days more (if needed) and provides an excuse for you and your friends to get rid of everyone's pumpkins at the same time, as well as have a party.
    • Choose whose place the party will be held at. It needs to be somewhere with a decent sized backyard.
    • Ask the guests to keep their jack-o'-lanterns after Halloween. Offer to collect pumpkins for friends who can't come.
    • Find things to damage the pumpkin with. Suitable items include slingshots, sports bats or rackets, sticks or broomsticks, et cetera. Or, you might prefer tossing the pumpkins against a wall or dropping them from on high. If children are involved, don't use anything that could result in injuries – simply throwing or dropping is best with kids around.
    • Plan a party. Get drinks, snacks, music, chairs, etc., organized. A barbecue is a good idea. Set out candies from Halloween as well.
    • Hold the party. Have a prize for the best smashing technique.
    • Sweep up the smashed pieces. These can be composted, buried, or thrown out, as detailed below.
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    Make a home for an ant colony. Place the jack-o'-lantern near an area you know that ants frequent. Allow the pumpkin to start rotting. When you see mold growing on the inside, this is a good time to start.
    • Microwave two small bars of chocolate in a bowl (or plate) for 30-45 seconds.
    • Sprinkle sugar on the chocolate and stir until you get a paste.
    • Apply the paste to the the pumpkin, on either the inside or outside.
    • Observe. You may see many types of ants in you new ant colony.
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    Feed the jack-o'-lantern to the chickens or other poultry. Break down the pumpkins with your hands or a hammer and toss the pieces into the chicken's feeding tray. Once they've pecked off the remaining flesh, remove the pumpkin skin and compost or throw away.
    • If you have a farm, pumpkins make for good stock feed. Or call a local zoo or animal park to see if they can make use of clean pumpkins you don't need.
    • Don't feed a moldy pumpkin to animals. If you're going to use it as food, it must be fresh and in good condition.
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    Compost the jack-o'-lantern. Pumpkins make great fertilizer when composted. Remove the seeds before composting unless you want pumpkins all over your garden next summer! Remove anything that won't compost like candle wax, decorations, and so forth. Place the jack-o'-lantern on a bed of leaves (maple leaves work well) or other plant trimmings inside the compost. Add more leaves over the top of the pumpkin. Cover with the usual compost materials and the pumpkin will break down.[3]
    • This can be done in a plastic container if you don't own a compost bin.
    • Pumpkin can be fed to worms for worm composting too. Break it down into small pieces first.
    • If you don't want to compost it, bury it in the soil. It will decay quickly and will still fertilize and enrich the soil.
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    Dispose of the jack-o'-lantern in the garbage if you don't have a garden or compost. Leaving a pumpkin to decompose in your home or on patios will result in pumpkin stains and mold problems.


  • Keep the pumpkin seeds. Wash them and allow them to dry and plant them the following year for a new crop of pumpkins. Alternately, consider roasting them.
  • After Halloween, you can often pick up pumpkins for great prices or even nothing. Grab a few and use them to cook with, or store in a cool and dry place to cook with in the following months.
  • If you don't want your Halloween pumpkin to disintegrate, consider using a hard shell gourd that has had the flesh removed and a polyurethane finished applied to it.
  • For the ant colony: You can substitute hard candy for ant paste, but the ants can't eat it as well. Remove any spider webs you find, they can be dangerous to ants. Substitute any type of bug for ants, but ants work best.
  • Consider whether it's possible to hold a pumpkin smashing party in a local park to allow many people to participate. Check with local authorities first.


  • If you want to use your jack-o'-lantern for cooking after it has sat outside, if you have even the slightest suspicion that it has been contaminated (such as having been nibbled by animals, kicked by shoes, etc.), don't. Instead, do something different with it.
  • Don't burn yourself on the hot ant-paste.
  • In some instances, you'll find that your jack-o'-lantern is smashed for you by Halloween revelers late Halloween night. If you don't want this to happen, place your jack-o'-lantern out of sight. Otherwise, it can be an easy way to dispose of it!
  • Don't store the jack-o'-lantern in the attic. It won't keep for next Halloween; it will simply rot, stain anything nearby, and attract pests.
  • It is not recommended to use your garbage disposal unit for getting rid of whole pumpkins; this can easily overload the system. Composting is better.

Things You'll Need

  • Old jack-o'-lantern

Sources and Citations

  1. Chowhound, Can I use my Jack-o-lantern?,
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