Making good use of a pumpkin

We're spending a lot of time at home at the moment, and I thought it might be fun to start some loosely Halloween-themed activities a little early.  One 65p small pumpkin went a long way, and we started out with carving it.

The carving was something both my sons (4 years and 21 months) got involved with in different ways.  We started with a guessing game about what was inside the pumpkin - oddly my eldest didn't seem to remember from last year, yet he remembered cutting a face into a pumpkin.  We talked about how we'd seen them growing on one of our trips out a few weeks back, and that the pumpkins must grow from something - my 4 year old eventually reached the conclusion that there must be seeds inside whilst my youngest perfected his pronunciation of the word "pumpkin" which has been much-used since.  I cut into it with a sharp knife with the boys watching from a safe distance.  As I eased the top off, they were both curious to find out what was inside.  

Seeds inside the pumpkin

We scooped the seeds out (not entirely harmonious as there wasn't space for two hands inside and we only had one garish orange pumpkin scoop which was a dubious purchase on sale a few years ago) and had a look at them.  Then we discussed what sort of face it would have which was a nice chance to talk about the different shapes we could use.  My youngest lost interest at this point, but the big one designed the face and I cut it out.  Then we scraped out about half of the pumpkin flesh using a metal spoon.  This is a pretty laborious way of getting pumpkin flesh to eat, but it was a compromise between cooking with it and making a lantern.  Much of the work to do this fell to me as it was pretty hard going for little hands.  Nevertheless, we got a decent sized pan of pumpkin and I cooked it on the hob with a sprinkle of water for 10 minutes.

Pumpkin lantern

Whilst I was cooking, we found an LED candle (another poor use of plastic which I can't really justify aside from it being safer for little hands than a real one) and put it inside the pumpkin.  The boys liked it but it really came into its own later in the day when darkness fell and they had a lot of fun watching the light inside the pumpkin flicker.

Making pumpkin scones

We used the pumpkin to make two bakes on different days (kept in the fridge in between).  These were a batch of scones (both boys concluded these were delicious) and a pumpkin pie (which was shunned by the big one despite his initial enthusiasm but loved by the little one). There's a lot of science and maths involved in cooking, and I tend to try and engage my eldest in conversation about something whilst we're making things e.g. reading the scales, but when making the pumpkin scones, he wanted to tell me about the life cycle of a pumpkin from a seed growing, to having flowers which are pollinated by bees and then the flower growing into a pumpkin with more seeds inside.  I asked what he thought happened to the pumpkin if nobody picked it to eat or carve and he wasn't sure.  I explained that it would rot and provide nutrients (food) for the seeds to grow.

Chemical reaction inside a pumpkin

The pumpkin hung around on our table for a week, and started going mouldy.  I thought we could have one last use of the pumpkin and make it "be sick" with a chemical reaction as a bit of fun science.  One boy upended a pot of bicarbonate of soda into the pumpkin (probably a tablespoon or so) and the other tipped a jug of a mix of 50:50 water and spirit vinegar plus a squirt of hand soap in afterwards.  The bicarb and vinegar react to form carbon dioxide bubbles, and the soap traps the gas in bubbles rather than it escaping.  This quickly makes lots of froth that oozes out through the mouth (and in our case, nose) of the pumpkin and makes it look like it's vomiting.  Possibly poor taste, but they thought it was good enough to want to do it again and I obliged.  They were then happy to conclude that the pumpkin was mouldy (i.e. starting to rot, as we'd talked about a few days before) and we couldn't keep it any longer, so it duly went into the food waste bin.

As it's a full week before Halloween and the small boys are both keen on more pumpkin scones and pumpkin faces, we'll be doing some more carving and eating this week!