Does It Really Matter If Your Jack-O’-Lantern Pumpkin Is Grown Organically?

After all, you’re not going to eat it.

October 5, 2017
Photography by paulgmccabe/Getty

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and everyone you know is suddenly dressing in boots and flannel. And that of course means it’s time to get yourself to the nearest pumpkin patch ASAP.

But wait, we hear your organically-minded conscience saying, is it bad that those pumpkins you’re dying to pick probably aren’t organic?


(Brag your love of gardening with the Organic Life 2018 Wall Calendar, featuring gorgeous photographs, cooking tips and recipes, plus how to eat more—and waste less—of what's in season.)

If you’re anything like us and always find yourself leaving said pumpkin patch with a half dozen jack-o’-lantern pumpkins and a trunk full of decorative gourds, it’s a question that bears pondering.

The answer, which you likely already know deep in your heart, is that yes, of course you should buy an organic pumpkin (or even better, grow one).

Related: 14 Unusual Pumpkins For Fall Decorating (And Eating, Too!)

It’s true that pumpkins are not the worst offenders out there when it comes to pesticide usage. The Environmental Working Group gathers data each year on the pesticide residue found on forty-eight popular produce items and ranks them from dirtiest to cleanest. This year, winter squash came in at number 26, landing it squarely in the middle of the pack. It could be better, but it be a lot worse, too.

Butternut squash is another of our favorite autumn squashes—and this soup is our favorite way to eat it:

But even if you’re not going to eat your jack-o’-lantern (and we don’t recommend it—go with a pie variety instead for your crock pot pumpkin pie), it still matters to Mother Nature whether soil has been exposed to toxic pesticides and fungicides, especially given that organic soils trap carbon dioxide, helping reverse climate change.


That said, a lot of us aren’t lucky enough to have wonderful organic pick-your-own pumpkin patch down the road. And if we’re being honest, buying your jack-o’-lantern carver from the trucked-in pile in front of Whole Foods seems a bit of a sad way to celebrate the season. After all, we’ve just spent a whole year looking forward to fall traditions like traipsing through a field on a brisk fall day (clad in flannel, of course) hunting for THE pumpkin. Maybe you even plan on enjoying a hayride or corn maze while you're at it and sipping a steaming mug of hot apple cider afterwards. It’s a beloved autumn ritual, and we are not about to be the ones to stand in your way.

Related: How To Monogram A Pumpkin For Fall Decorating—And Make Your Neighbors Jealous

And really, in the grand scheme of things, there are plenty of household items you should be buying organic (but probably aren’t) that are way bigger offenders than your coveted Halloween pumpkins.

So maybe consider instead some nice cozy organic flannel sheets (conventional cotton is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to pesticides), a drawer full of cute organic undies, a box of organic tampons, or some nice organic chew toys for your pooch and don’t worry too much about the growing collection of gourds on your porch. A family day at the pumpkin patch will leave you with fond memories for a lifetime, and even give your kids a chance to learn that vegetables come from the earth rather than magically filled supermarket shelves. 


So you can keep your lovingly selected (if conventionally grown) jack-o’-lantern pumpkins. We won’t tell. We know you’re doing your best.