In the build-up to Halloween, October is the month that we see pumpkins everywhere!
Supermarket shelves are buckling under the weight of precarious piles of pumpkins; garden walls, porches and window cills are adorned with candlelit monstrous orange faces; magazines and social media are full of recipes for pumpkin pie, soups and casseroles; and even some fields have been left full of pumpkins so that you can go and choose your own!
So why is this wonderful orange fruit a symbol of Halloween?
The Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins into what used to be called ‘Jack o’ Lanterns’ originates hundreds of years ago in Ireland! Back then, Jack o’ Lanterns were made out of potatoes or turnips. On All Hallows Eve (as it was then called), The Celts would put an ember from their sacred bonfire into the carved vegetable which were then used to light up the night and ward off evil spirits! It wasn’t until the pumpkin was discovered by Irish immigrants arriving in America that this new Halloween ritual arose!
Not only is the pumpkin used to bring hours of enjoyment to children and adults at this time of year to see who can carve the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ ghastly ghoul but it is also packed full of goodness – and not just for us humans – birds, squirrels, hedgehogs, badgers, foxes and many forms of wildlife will benefit from and enjoy the remnants of your pumpkins! So don’t throw your pumpkins (or innards) away when you have finished with them, put them at the bottom of your garden or take to your local woods!
The good old pumpkin is very low in calories and high in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. It is incredibly high in vitamin A providing about 245% of the recommended daily allowance. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction and also helps the functioning of heart, lungs and other major organs!
And of course, the seeds of the pumpkin are eaten all year round and are rich in protein, healthy fats including omega-3, vitamins and minerals including an excellent natural source of magnesium and zinc. Why not try drying and cooking your own pumpkin seeds left over from the contents of your carved pumpkin masterpiece! Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver on how to roast your own pumpkin seeds!