Roasted Radishes? Smoked carrots? Jackfruit? Stop trying to be the next kale. The next BIG thing. You’re gonna get kicked to the curb. You know why?
Cuz you’re no pumpkin.
What the whaaaa you exclaim? Ya, it’s like I’m standing right behind you huh.
You heard me. P.U.M.P.K.I.N.
It’s still around year after year. No fad here. Take that roasted radish!
Face it, don’t you smile just a bit when you see a bin full of these lovely orange orbs at your favorite store or farmstand?
Did you know Pumpkins aren’t a vegetable? They are a fruit!
Do they conjure up memories of choosing your own as a kid (or in my case ~ last year) be it out of one of those store bins or a real pumpkin patch? They signal FALL IS HERE!
Ya, let’s see a smoked carrot tell you something. Ooooooh a roasted radish – that reminds me of… nothing. Ever.
So let’s find out a little more about this cool fruit (not a veggie!) that never get’s its due.
The word pumpkin originated from the Greek word Pepón meaning “large melon”. The first pumpkins weren’t the cute round orange globes we seek out for our perfect Jack O’ Lanterns. Nope, they were more like a crookneck squash in shape. As a matter of fact pumpkins are members of the squash family and have endeared themselves to us, especially during the Autumn months. Can you say pie?! I sure can!
Pie (there I said it) was a popular English dish brought to the Americas by colonists. Pumpkin pie is popular here and in Canada but in other parts of the world it’s rarely served. What a shame.
Surprisingly there is a recipe from 1651 in François Pierre La Varenne’s famous cookbook Le Vrai Cuisinier François (The True French Cook). It’s one of the first written recipes that included a pastry base. It’s not what we’re used to in present time but this recipe was a step up from the typical stewing of a whole pumpkin or filling a hollow pumpkin shell with milk, honey and spices then baking in hot ashes. Thanks François!
So now we have PIE and most of us would be satisfied right here but I’m a curious sort so I wanted to know where did our Halloween traditions originate?
Halloween started as a Celtic holiday known as Samhain (sow-in. pronounce “sow” like “cow”) meaning summers end. Personally I know summer is coming to a close by the fact that in August, when I need to buy my fifth bottle of SPF 110, I can only find knitted snow caps and 10 layer jackets.
The tradition of carving pumpkins comes to us from the Irish as well. Sort of. You see, there were no pumpkins in Ireland so they carved turnips or potatoes.
Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, would’ve had a much more difficult time convincing me that Linus actually believed in The Great Turnip when we all know The Great Pumpkin makes so much more sense. And let me just say right here that I intend for my pumpkin patch to be the most sincere next year!
Obviously carving a turnip was slightly uninspiring so there were all kinds of
boozy tales told about “Stingy Jack”. His legend goes back hundreds of years in Irish folklore and there are many variations of this story but in a nut shell or would that be pumpkin shell…he just seems to be a hard headed tightwad.
- A bit of a drunkard (the Guinness perhaps?)
- A trickster extraordinaire. If you call not paying your pub tab “tricking”.
- A huckster who tried to beat the devil at his own game. Didn’t turn out well for Jack.
Seems Stingy Jack made a deal with the devil -and lost- condemning himself to an eternity being stuck between the light and the shadows. This guy would’ve been an excellent Brothers Grimm character no?! Never fear though, good ol’ Stingy Jack didn’t have to walk around in total darkness since the devil gave him a burning piece of coal to light his way. What a stinker! Would you like to hold a burning piece of coal bare handed? NO amount of Guinness could take the sting out of that!
Ever clever and wiley Jack carved a turnip and plopped the ember into it to light his way. To where ~ I don’t know. Probably the nearest pub. You just can’t make this stuff up. Errrr…well I suppose a group of tanked Irishmen in a pub did long ago.
However the tale of Stingy Jack came about – it stuck. The Irish began to carve turnips or potatoes. In England they used beets which would’ve been a bloody mess. See what I did there? Bloody. Didn’t know I could speak a foreign language did you? Sadly, you can’t hear my amazing cockney accent as I said the word “bloody”. Your loss.
Anyway, the thought was these produce carvings would ward off evil spirits such as Stingy and when the Irish and English immigrated to America they discovered pumpkins which are bigger and easier to carve than the lowly turnip. And carve they did along with placing a candle inside skipping that icky coal which somehow seems to have made it’s way over to Christmas. But that’s another story.
SO that’s how Stingy Jack became a Jack O’Lantern. Beats the Jack O’Turnip or Turnip Pie.
One of the first things I think of as fall approaches is Halloween and the carving of our pumpkins. Our family loves to carve pumpkins and the weirdo that I am… has me seed shopping for our next year’s fall pumpkin patch in anticipation of a family carving night using our very own pumpkins! Nope, it doesn’t take much to excite this homesteader. Just some wacky, weird pumpkin varieties and a boat load of candy. But it’s ok I just eat the minis.
Next season give the Black Futsu, Jarrahdale or Flat White Boer a try (I made it EASY for you, just click on the picture of the pumpkin you like and it will take you to the correct site. I have no affiliation with them. They are just very good seed companies) and be sure to check out other varieties from Baker Creek seeds and Johnny seeds. Come on.. don’t be a Stingy Jack!
Appropriately some Smashing Pumpkins with Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness
Do you have a favorite pumpkin variety?