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We all now know that Pumpkin is a winter squash; part of the Cucurbitacae family along with cucumbers and melons. But did you know that the word “pumpkin” was first used in the fairy tale Cinderella!? Six of the 7 continents grow pumpkins (Antarctic don’t), and we will source ours this week from Sandy Lane, much nearer to home. There are over 45 varieties of pumpkin, with the famous Jack O’Lantern ours on the Van.

© Mim Saxl Photography, www.mimsaxl.comPumpkin is in fact a fruit containing seeds that you can also eat. As its 90% water it’s really low in calories. In fact, while the taste can be very similar to Sweet Potato (especially for buttercup and sweet dumpling squash varieties), it has a third of the calories! They also have more fibre than kale, more potassium than bananas, and are full of heart-healthy magnesium and iron. So, not a veg (or fruit) to neglect, especially when you carve them up this Halloween.

Top Tips for #Pumpkinrescue – thanks to Good Food Oxford for these who last year helped us to save over 3.5 tonnes of pumpkins from landfill – let’s try and smash that this year! ;

  1. If you’re short of time when you carve your pumpkin, save the flesh in the fridge for a day or two, or longer in the freezer. Save the pumpkin seeds too!
  2. There are loads of creative things you can do to make pumpkin flesh really tasty. Try a soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake or even chutney. Check out #pumpkinrescue for recipes.
  3. Pumpkin seeds can be gently toasted in the oven with a pinch of salt for a high protein healthy snack.
  4. Or save the seeds and grow your own next year! Clean the seeds in water then lay them out on a piece of tissue paper to dry. Once they are dry, they can be stored and then planted next spring.
  5. Failing that, stick your pumpkin pulp in the compost, or in your green food caddy which will get collected by the council weekly. You can order your food caddy from recycling@oxford.gov.uk or by calling 01865 249811.
Jack o lantern
Jack O’ Lanterns

The legend of Jack O’Lantern comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack (see more below). Carving of Jack-o’-lanterns originated from the tradition of carving the faces of lost souls into hollowed out pumpkins and turnips. A candle was placed inside the carvings making the faces glow. The Halloween lanterns were placed on doorsteps to ward off evil spirits. While many believe the tradition originated in Ireland there is evidence of turnips being used for what was called a “Hoberdy’s Lantern” in Worcestershire, England at the end of the 18th Century.



The Legend of Stingy Jack

According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”

hoberty lanternIn Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.