We’re in the heart of October, which can only mean one thing: It’s time to pick out a few perfect pumpkins. They are a staple decoration for many homes in October, obviously, but there’s more to them that. Sometimes we forget that pumpkins are edible, since many of us buy pumpkin puree in a can to make pie or other treats. Struggling with whether to cook or carve? Here’s a guide to help you decide how to handle your pumpkins at every stage of its life.

Cooking vs. Carving: What to Do with Pumpkins
How to pick them

To determine how to pick the right pumpkin, you should decide what you’re going to do with it. If you’re buying it to use as a decoration, you obviously want to choose based on the aesthetics. Does it have a flat bottom to keep it from tipping over? Does it have a side that lends itself to carving? Is it hideously disfigured? Great! Sometimes you want a pumpkin that is hideously disfigured, since they tend to be scarier.

If you’re choosing a pumpkin to cook and eat, your decisions are different. You’re looking for health. Avoid soft bits, mold and other indications that it’s been sitting around for a while and might spoil soon. Choose a pumpkin that feels heavy for its size. Because you don’t need to worry about carving a big scary face on it, you can choose a pumpkin that’s on the small side.

Carving vs. cooking

Once a pumpkin has been carved, you can’t roast its flesh. But you can still salvage the insides and seeds, and use them in a variety of ways. Roasted pumpkin seeds are one of nature’s greatest snacks—here are several way to enjoy them. And it’s not just the seeds! The stringy bits can be used in all kinds of ways, including this recipe for pumpkin gut bread.

If you aren’t into carving, you’re in for a treat, because there are so many ways you can enjoy pumpkin. After you cut into the pumpkin and scoop away the seeds and stringy parts, you can boil, steam or oven-roast the pumpkin flesh chunks, and create your own homemade pumpkin puree. You don’t need to peel the pumpkin before cooking it—cook first then scoop the soft flesh out after. There are, like, a million things you can do with pumpkin puree, from pancakes to risotto, which I love.

Cooking vs. Carving: What to Do with Pumpkins
The final steps

If you’re cooking your pumpkin, you’ve probably used almost all of it, seeds, guts and flesh. You’re probably just left with the skin, which some enterprising people online seem to use to make pumpkin skin crisps, though I’ve never tried them. If you’ve carved your pumpkin, don’t forget to compost it once November rolls around.

Are you a carver or a cooker—or both? Let us know what you do with pumpkins in the comments below. Be sure too to download Luvo’s 7-day meal and fitness plan for more nutrition tips and recipes.

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