Prepare yourself in freaky fancy dress, cover yourself in cobwebs and arm yourself with an artillery of tricks and treats. Halloween is upon us, which also means it’s time to buy a pumpkin! The tradition of carving pumpkins for lanterns dates back to the 19th century when turnips were carved into lanterns to ward off evil spirits and light the way in the dark. Pumpkins replaced turnips as the custom travelled to North America and became known as jack-o-lanterns.
Pumpkins belong to the family of squash. Siblings include cucumbers, melons and gourds (you might need to Google that last one!). They have a first-class nutritional profile being rich in fibre, iron and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that gives pumpkins their rich orange colour and some evidence suggests a diet rich in this can help prevent certain types of cancer.
Pumpkins lend themselves well to both sweet and savoury dishes. The former being characterised by the US classic pumpkin pie. Like any other squash, pumpkin is brilliant whole, mashed or cut into chunks for a stew. So if you are carving a lantern this Halloween, don’t throw out the flesh. And remember the seeds are edible too!
Not only are pumpkins nutritious, versatile and tasty; they also present endless opportunities for creativity. With the spooky season upon us, check out our pumpkin related activities and tips:
- Most large supermarkets are stocking pumpkins as they are ripe and in season. However, if you are struggling to source one, try Whole Foods Market, Kensington High Street or popular markets such as Brixton, Borough or your local farmers’ market.
- You may associate fruit picking with guzzling punnets of strawberries in the summer but why not go pumpkin picking (fancy dress optional) at one of these farms in and around London.
- Trendy arts and crafts establishment Drink, Shop & Do is running a pumpkin-carving workshop on Monday 29 October. They slice the top off, you do the rest! Prepare to get mucky and bring a tea light to give your lantern its warm glow.
- Once you’ve honed your skills, why not enter the Fortnum and Mason Pumpkin Carving Competition on Wednesday 31 October. Children and adults can enter separately but you need to sign up beforehand.
- From Friday 26 to Wednesday 31 October, head to Covent Garden Piazza for a festival dedicated to pumpkins! The fair will showcase some of the biggest and best pumpkins the country has to offer.
- If you don’t want to get mucky, this lovely London florist can carve your pumpkin and create an unusual but beautiful arrangement for your windowsill.
Image by aliwest44 courtesy of Flickr