It is thought that 1.5 billion pumpkins (the gourd-like squash) are cultivated every year in the US alone. 99% of these pumpkins are used as Jack O’Lanterns on Halloween. With more than 1.02bn hungry people in the world it seems like a waste that these valued crops are not used as a food source. Pumpkin carving is an age old tradition and it doesn’t seem to be leaving us any time soon; this is why numerous recipes and uses have been created for the Halloween leftovers.
Halloween is the third most lucrative festival in the UK (after Christmas and Easter) with an estimated £100m spent on this holiday every year. The use of Lanterns originated from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack. Jack tricked the Devil into agreeing that he should never have to go to Hell. Upon Jack’s death he was denied entry to heaven and the devil kept true to his word, refusing his entry to hell.
Jack was presented with a hollowed out turnip to light the way and to serve as a warning to others as he wandered the earth for eternity. Fearing the ghost of the Jack O’Lantern, the Irish began to carve scary faces out of turnips and potatoes to ward off Jack’s spirit. Fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s, the Irish immigrants took the Halloween tradition with them to the US. It was the Americans who began to use pumpkins as this was the most readily available crop. Although the use of pumpkins did catch on it was not until the 1990s that the demand for pumpkins in the UK soared.
If your aim is to use your pumpkin for more than just a decoration there are numerous different things you can do with it. The first and possibly the most obvious is as a food source. Whether it is pie, soup, juice or even ice cream, the pumpkin is rich in vitamins A and C, along with protein and potassium. The seeds from the pumpkin are also highly nutritious, high in fibre and great for strengthening the immune system. Just dry roast them and sprinkle on a little salt and they’re pretty tasty! It is also thought that pumpkins are good for the skin and more surprisingly a mashed pumpkin is thought to help pets with digestive problems.
With the growing demand for Halloween pumpkins, it is a wonder where the many millions of crops are grown, to cater for the US and UK’s need. Out of the seven continents it is only Antarctica which cannot grow Pumpkins due to its cold weather, with some of the biggest international growers being the United States and China; the highest producer of Pumpkins in Europe is in Spalding, Lincolnshire. This year’s harvest reached three million, whilst the majority will take to the English market in time for Halloween, some will be sent off to Spain and Holland.
So as you carve your pumpkin this Halloween, perhaps try something different with its innards and save it from the bin. You can try a new snack or even pamper your skin, but if you fancy something more traditional, why not carve a Turnip instead.