One of the first plants to be cultivated by humans was gourds. Gourds were cultivated for use as a kitchen gadget; primarily as a vessel for carrying liquids. These unique varieties of the pumpkin family are inedible fruits classified as berries that when dried created the original environmentally friendly water bottle. The durability of the gourd is so great that during Neolithic times shapely gourds were used in reconstructive surgery to replace damaged sections of people’s skulls and faces which saw pieces of gourds being trimmed to size and wrapped with gold leaf and then inserted under the skin. The use of gourds rapidly spread about the world at that time as they allowed for the migration of people to travel while minimizing fears of lack of water.
Gourds effectiveness at carrying water saw them quickly adapted to carry light as they could be easily carved into portable lanterns. This led to the creation of the custom of carving Jack o’ Lantern’s with fierce faces to embody those souls forever lost in purgatory which are believed to ward off evil spirits and protect people from the undead in the autumn months. This tradition brought to Canada by European immigrants.
Today pumpkin carving is much more complicated as many employ power tools and specialty carving kits which have us approach the pumpkin differently. First you must choose a pumpkin that has no visible signs of bruising or mold. If possible choose larger pumpkins as they are easier to carve as are the lighter colored pumpkins as they have softer flesh.
Removing the top of your pumpkin is no longer the norm as it is the hardest and most dangerous thing to do as the top of the pumpkin is woody and tough, which is why I recommend removing the bottom or the back of your Jack o’ lantern using a keyhole or drywall saw as it is easier to cut through and allows easy access for electrical cords to power up colorful tree lights inside your pumpkin and forgo the candle.
Ice cream paddle-style scoops make quick work of cleaning out your pumpkin and allow you to scrape down the inside wall to about an inch thickness with relative ease. Many people use carving templates available on-line which they print off and use as a transfer to outline their images with.
Freshly carved pumpkins immediately start to rot but this can be delayed by soaking your carved pumpkin for a couple of hours in a mild solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 gallon of water. Then thoroughly dry the pumpkin afterwards. Not only will this prolong the life of your jack-o-lantern but it will also deter bugs, mold, and animals from your pumpkin. You can delay your carved pumpkin from shriveling up by applying a thin coating of cooking oil all over your pumpkin, inside and out paying particular attention to all of the cut edges.
With Halloween fast approaching many of us will be carving pumpkins this weekend and have included the following recipe for pumpkin milkshakes to get us in the mood!
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. Humble Pie
3 cups whole milk, almond milk or soy milk
1 cup ice cubes
2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
Brown sugar for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a blender except for brown sugar. Blend on highest setting for 30 seconds.
Divide evenly into glasses and top with brown sugar.