on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."
~Henry David Thoreau
It is that time of the year...pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins. I love fall...and the colors of fall...there is something invigorating about the oranges, yellows, and reds this time of the year...the fireworks of autumn before the quiet colors of winter.
Did you know that the pumpkin was not always the traditional "veggie" of Halloween?
The Irish brought the tradition of the Jack O'Lantern to America. On All Hallow's Eve, the Irish originally hollowed out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. In the mid 1800s when the potato famine hit Ireland, nearly a million Irish came to America (good thing their "taters" are doing better now-they might be left floating out there these days). Anyway, the legend revolves around Stingy Jack, a miserable old drunk who played tricks on everyone, but the trick he played on the Devil was his downfall.
He tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. Once the Devil climbed up the apple tree, Stingy Jack placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. The Devil was unable to get down the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died, and once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses and let the Devil down.
Many years later, when Jack finally died, he went to Heaven, but Saint Peter said that he was too mean and too cruel and had led a miserable and worthless life on earth. He was sent to Hell, but the Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared and had nowhere to go but to wander about forever in the darkness between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell to help him light his way. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed out Turnip, one of his favorite foods which he was always stealing. From that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his "Jack O'Lantern".So, the Irish hollowed out turnips,rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets, placing a light in them to ward off evil spirits and particularly Stingy Jack.
Jack O' Lanterns were placed on porches and in windows, in hopes that Jack would take the light if needed instead of bothering anyone.
As the Irish settled into America, they discovered the pumpkin. They realized that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out, and so the pumpkins became the new traditional Jack O'Lanterns. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico, dating back over 7000 years to 5500 B.C., but native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the Pilgrims landed. When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and it soon became a staple in their diets, too.But, back to Thoreau and the velvet cushion...you can have the best of both...pumpkin and velvet...although I would not recommending sitting on them! Made in America too!“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
Jim Davis (American Actor. 1915-1981)