Sep 21, 2021
3 mins read
Above: Roasted pumpkin skin and seeds toasted with garlic, a favourite with the indigenous people of America
It is Halloween next month and Kids everywhere will start to carve Pumpkins.
Now at this point I can hear all the parents my age and older shout " We used to carve a turnip!". Yes, yes we did and I remember being in tears trying to carve this unyielding vegetable and when, after many tears and cries of " I can't do it", you actually lit a candle in it, it smelt awful and was quickly chucked out the very next day!
So why do we carve a root vegetable once a year? There are of course many explanations and no conclusive proof BUT fire and lamps have throughout history not just been used to light the way but also to ward off evil and strange spirits.
The most accepted reason for Jack-o-lanterns is the story of an Irish man Named Stingy Jack. Jack invited the Devil to drink with him. Not wanting to pay, Jack convinced the devil to turn into a coin but instead of using the coin to pay for the drinks, Jack put it in his pocket next to a cross. Jack eventually let the Devil go as long as he promised not to come after Jack for 1 year. The Devil agree and when the year was up, somehow Jack managed to persuade the Devil to climb a tree. When he was up there Jack carved a cross into the tree so the Devil couldn't get down. Once Jack had persuaded the Devil to leave him alone for 10 years, and the Devil agreed, Jack rubbed out the cross .Jack dies not long after this but God didn't want him in heaven as he had done deals with the Devil and the Devil didn't want him in hell because Jack had got the better of the Devil, so the Devil sent Jack to wander the earth with a glowing piece of coal as his only light. Jack carved out a turnip and put the coal inside and to this day he is still roaming the earth with his Jack-o-lantern'
So how did we get from Turnips to Pumpkins? Well when Irish and Scottish settlers went to America Pumpkins were readily available and much more easy to carve, so children decided to use them instead of Turnips- and who can blame them.
However Pumpkins have been known in Britain for 400 years!
Pumpkins are native to America and , more than corn, were what kept the first Pilgrims alive in their first few years. Indigenous tribes ate Pumpkin in a number of ways and the settlers followed suite.
The Indigenous Tribes would roast strips of Pumpkin in herbs and eat it with nuts, the seeds would be roasted with chillies and eaten and sometimes the seeds were also dried and ground up and added to other flours to make bread.
Naturally the Pumpkin made its way back over the water to Britain. One of the most popular ways of cooking in the 1600s was to put things in pies and yes you guessed it, that's exactly what we done- Pumpkin Pie. It was not how we know it nowadays though! The Pumpkin pie of 1600s Britain was a layered pie with other ingredients such as fortified wine, apples and currants, but the idea of pumpkin pie made its way back over to the New World where it underwent another change and became what we would recognise as Pumpkin pie today!
So where does Pumpion in the title of this blog come from? Well that was the original name of Pumpkins and the earliest recipe for a pie can be found in a recipe book from the middle of the 1600s and is simply called "How to make a Pumpion Pie".