Pumpkins, Hallowe’en and the Three Sisters Garden #2


Are you ready for the ‘trick or treat’ mob? Maybe this year you should quiz them in the uses of pumpkins and apples before handing out the sweets…or should I say turnips?
In the last post we looked at cultivating pumpkins, in this we look some of the links between pumpkins, apples and Hallowe’en.

Jack o’lantern is a term commonly used for the carved pumpkin faces seen at Hallowe’en. It originally described the eerie lights seen over marshes and peat bogs. These are also known as will o’ the wisp or ignis fatuus, literally ‘foolish fire’ or ‘false fire’. The lights are actually gases (including methane) caused by decaying organic matter – but I don’t think you’ll see them over the compost heap!

The origin of Hallowe’en dates back at least 3,000 years to the Celtic celebration of Samhain. This celebration, the Feast of the Dead, was held on October 31st and was a not a morbid festival, but one that honoured those loved ones who had died. It was one of the turning points of the Celtic year, the change from light to dark, from summer to winter. This was an agricultural society and the changing seasons were important markers in the year.

On the night of Samhain, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones and to act as protection against malevolent spirits. If you’re wondering why turnips, this is because pumpkins were introduced from the ‘New World’ by Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century, whereas turnips were grown throughout most Europe from Roman times or earlier. Oh and ‘jack o’ lantern’ when applied as a description to the carved out pumpkins dates from the 19th century.

Games were played, including one similar to the apple bobbing we indulge in now. The apple was important in Celtic mythology, an apple tree was found on the Isle of the Blessed. And the ‘bobbing’ may have reflected the heroes journey to obtain the magic apples. More prosaically, the apple harvest would be finished by Samhain so there would be plenty of apples to eat.

Pumpkins – winter squash – are an excellent crop for storing and will keep until February in the right conditions, cool, dark and frost free. As for what you do with the flesh scooped out from your Hallowe’en lantern, you could try pumpkin soup; a recipe we use can be found here.

For planting ideas to grow your Jack o’ lanterns for next year, why not drop us an email? info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk


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  1. Pingback: FRIDAY FIVE! Best Movie Feasts | Casual Gentlemen

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