While September and October are the traditional harvest months, for most of us there is one particular tradition that stands out: Halloween. What is Halloween and why are pumpkins a popular part of the tradition? The pumpkin is becoming increasingly popular and we are buying and planting more now than ever. Do you love pumpkins and have you always wanted your own pumpkin patch? Read on to know more about the tradition, the pumpkins and how to grow them in your own backyard.
Halloween has roots in Celtic traditions
Halloween, originally called All Hallows Eve, is an ancient pagan celebration that is said to originate in Ireland. “Samhain” as it is originally called, is an ancient festival celebrated somewhere between the fall equinox and winter solstice and so related to the Irish harvest seasons. The festival tradition progressed and it was in the Christian Middle Ages that Samhain became what we now know to be the Halloween celebrated on October 31st. Wearing scary costumes and trick-and-treating is also said to come from the Samhain tradition, as Scots and Irish would dress up in the days leading to Samhain, singing for cake and sometimes play tricks on each other.
Why are pumpkins used for Halloween?
Much like Latin America’s Day of the Dead, it was believed that during Samhain spirits would cross over to the physical world. And in the Middle Ages came the tradition of placing fires around the house to protect the harvest and the families against these spirits.
The tradition of carving out pumpkins, or Jack-o’-Lanterns, is based on the story of Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil several times. When he died, neither God nor the devil wanted to deal with such a dubious person, so Stingy Jack was banned out of both heaven and hell. He was destined to roam the earth with only a piece of coal to light his way, which he stuffed into a carved potato to create a lantern. To ward off evil spirits such as Stingy Jack and protect the harvest, the Irish carved out potatoes and turnips and placed them around the house.
But why pumpkins, you ask. When immigrating to America in the early 1900s, the Irish brought the protective tradition with them. Realising that pumpkins were abundant and also easier to carve, pumpkins became the new potato. And from there, the tradition of carved out pumpkin Jack-o’-Lanterns emerged.
Cultivating your own pumpkins – what to do
Want your own pumpkins? Pumpkins are not only grown in large scale agriculture. They can also make a perfect vegetable for your garden patch. Pumpkins are becoming increasingly popular for their looks, charms ad uses. And no, it has nothing to do with pumpkin spice (which does not have any pumpkin in it at all). Pumpkins come in different sizes and colours which makes them fun to grow and eat as well as it brings colour to your garden.
Although pumpkins generally require bigger plots of land, they are easy to grow. With a little bit of creativity, pumpkins can in fact grow in smaller kitchen gardens, urban gardens or rooftop gardens. On patches of soil, the pumpkin vines spread fast and root themselves easily. They also do not like weeds and therefore it is recommended to grow them in a sealed-off area. If you have a smaller garden or a rooftop garden, the pumpkin seeds can be planted in shallow soil beds near a sturdy rack or ladder and trellis the vines off the ground. The heavy pumpkins will need some support to not break off as they grow.
Health benefits of pumpkins
Pumpkins do more than ward off evil spirits. According to the University of Illinois, the fruit is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, rich in potassium, magnesium and fibre. It is also high in beta carotene and other antioxidants, which are believed to slow signs of ageing and protect against certain kinds of cancer. The seeds are enriched with zinc – vital for skin, hair and nail health. Zinc is also believed to have cancer-fighting properties. It is a versatile fruit (yes fruit) and can be cooked any way imaginable. It is literally the new potato. Pumpkin risotto, anyone?
So, while you are plotting your next evil carve-out, make sure to hatch out some delicious recipes as well.
This article was written by RYNAN Smart Fertilizers.