The Time Of The Popular Pumpkin
It’s that time of year when pumpkins are popular – but not necessarily to eat. October 31 is, of course, Halloween and kids young and old love a Halloween Jack O’Lantern.
You can carve any type of pumpkin, gourd or squash. You’d be surprised at the wide range of pumpkin types that exist but shape really comes into it when choosing a pumpkin to carve. Your selection should be firm and heavy for its size – the heavier the pumpkin, the thicker the walls – and able to sit flat after being carved.
This guide to picking a pumpkin for carving suggests tapping the pumpkin gently and listening for a slightly hollow sound.
White pumpkins give a spooky look to your Jack O’Lantern and can also be painted more easily than darker types. They also make good cooking pumpkins too, which is a thing to keep in mind. Don’t throw away the hollowed out flesh – turn it into Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie or Pumpkin Soup.
Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve and is observed in a number of countries on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins a three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.
Celebrations and festivals remembering and honouring the dead are common throughout all cultures around the world.
The Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated in central and southern Mexico on November 1 and 2. Though it coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s & All Saint’s Day, the indigenous people of Mexico have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honouring deceased loved ones. They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of the angelitos are reunited with their families. Pictured are traditional Mexican ‘sugar skulls’.
In the summer festival of Obon, Japanese people welcome their ancestors’ spirits to their homes. The festival is commonly held between August 13 and August 16. Families pay tribute to their ancestors and visit the graves of deceased relatives. There are also traditional dances known as bon odori. While the festival is particularly associated with Buddhism, it is also observed in Shinto.
Families place offerings of seasonal fruit, vegetables, and flowers, and representatives of spirit animals made from cucumber or eggplant. The cucumbers are said to be horses, to bring the spirits quickly, and the eggplants cows, to take them back slowly.
The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival today, is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival held in Asian countries. In Chinese culture, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month. Distinct from both the Qingming Festival (in spring) and Double Ninth Festival (in autumn) in which living descendants pay homage to their deceased ancestors, during Ghost Festival, the deceased are believed to visit the living.
Many of the recipes used at this time are vegetarian. Just look at the range of Hungry Ghost Festival traditional foods!
Of course, our own Halloween recipes tend to be less traditional and more about having fun in the kitchen and at the table. For instance, here’s a collection of Halloween dishes from the BBC. Though most of the recipes there are for the amusement of children, the beetroot cocktails are definitely not. Youngsters will enjoy the sweet beetroot lemonade – made from raw beetroot, fresh lemon juice and caster sugar – but the Aperol and Prosecco make the cocktail strictly adults only! The spicy tomato dip is also to adult taste, featuring poppy seed, butternut pumpkin chunks, onion, garlic, tomato, cumin, coriander and chilli.
If you’re planning a Halloween party, don’t forget to pick up your supplies from Yuen’s for traditional games such as bobbing for apples. Remember to supervise children and you can help the younger ones bobbing for apples by cutting them into slices. You could also try pumpkin bowling – here’s how.