The Oxfordshire Pumpkin Festival returns for its seventh year with events across the city and county, run by the Good Food Oxford network. This annual event is a celebration of food: creatively encouraging people to think about the food they throw away, promoting the diversity of locally grown vegetables and teaching new skills.
November usually starts with a flood of pumpkins being wasted, but Good Food Oxford member organisations are encouraging people to buy edible pumpkins, “squash food waste” and eat – rather than discard – the flesh of their Halloween pumpkins.
Every year over a quarter of all Halloween pumpkins end up in landfill – that’s 18,000 tonnes of food waste. A recent poll by Hubbub found that 54% of pumpkins carved last Halloween did not get eaten.
A new poll by Hubbub found that over half of all pumpkins carved last year did not get eaten, and that people’s carving plans for this year are not likely to be impacted by COVID-19. The total number of pumpkins to be carved this year in the UK is projected at 23.63 million, of which 12.76 million will not get eaten. The poll also showed that a surprising number of people still don't think of pumpkins as food. Only 41% (2 in 5) of those polled realise you can eat a carving pumpkin from the supermarket. Pumpkin Festival aims to change that and show everyone that pumpkins and squashes are tasty and nutritious.
12.8 million pumpkins are due to go uneaten this Halloween.
Opportunities for festival events were limited by COVID-19 restrictions this year, and it was not easy to put together as varied a programme as in previous years. Nevertheless, our network members have been very creative in thinking of other ways of celebrating pumpkins while observing the guidelines, and to make sure people get to eat and learn about pumpkins and squashes.
At Cherwell Collective in Kidlington, families are asked to sign up in advance for a socially distanced carving and cooking event, and a farm tour to Tolhurst Organic in South Oxfordshire will be conducted all outdoors and socially distanced. Several restaurants and community cafes will run pumpkin menus, and local chefs and community cooks will teach new skills in online videos.
Some of the usual highlights of the festival, such as the guided tour to the food recycling plant in Cassington and the big Disco Soup on Bonn Square, were not possible this year. However, more activities will happen online. Throughout the festival, recipe ideas are promoted through a recipe collection on the Good Food Oxford website, free online cooking demos and on social media.
Every pumpkin eaten is a step towards tackling the 7.1 million tonnes of food and drink that is thrown away from UK homes every year.
The idea is to show that pumpkins are really versatile – the leaves from the younger plants can be cooked in summer, the toasted seeds are a delicious and healthy snack, and the softer varieties do not even need to be peeled before cooking or roasting. Cooked pumpkin flesh also works great in baking muffins, brownies and pies.
Along with our festival partners Replenish Oxfordshire and Oxfordshire County Council we are urging pumpkin carvers across the county to join the #PumpkinRescue and #EatYourPumpkin. And we have big plans for starting next year's Pumpkin Festival early by supporting people in growing their own pumpkins and squashes in the spring... stay tuned and subscribe to our newsletter for updates!