‘I’m nearly out of them’, Conn greets me. ‘Just enough of them to get to the week-end’. That, of course, is Halloween week-end.
There was a good crop this year, but the wet October meant careful harvesting and dry storage, before the pumpkins were ready for market.
Conn also runs a shop on his farm and had a constant stream of callers selecting and collecting their personal pumpkins.
Almost all of these are going to end up as “Jack O’Lanterns”, whose main job is to keep the ghosts and ghoulies of Oíche Shamhna away from the house. A small few will be turned into soup or pumpkin pies.
Irish tradition was to carve Jack O’Lanterns from Swede Turnips, quite a laborious process. Postcards arrived from America in the 1960’s with spectacular pictures of pumpkins with grotesquely carved faces on them. These were the American version of the Jack O’Lantern and were so much easier to carve than turnips.
While Halloween and all its traditions, was exported from Ireland to America, over one hundred and fifty years ago, the practice of pumpkins for carving came the other way. In the 1960s/70s, pumpkins started to arrive on these shores and the lowly turnip was dropped in their favour.
But, as Conn told me, ‘On the 31st of October, the demand for pumpkins stops dead’. He would love if some of our TV chefs encouraged us to use more pumpkins in our meals and so, prolong the season a little.
There are also the pumpkin seeds; every year we import tons of these and every year we send the seeds from the carved pumpkins to the dump!
A little change is all that is needed.