There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people—religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.Linus, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Well, Linus . . . . I am going to break a cardinal rule and talk about pumpkins today. Pumpkins for eating, pumpkins for drinking, pumpkins for working and pumpkins for playing! Pumpkins in all the places and for every little thing!
We’re in October, folks! Yes, though it’s at Frankenstein’s slow and clunky pace, we are still progressing forward through this “other-worldly” 2020. And while life has been far from normal, there are some things we can still enjoy in their essential forms. Fall fun and pumpkins are a couple of them!
There’s so much about autumn to explore! One of my favorite things is the simple fun outside in the cool crisp air and watching kids anticipating treats everywhere! Coffee shops are pulling out all their best pumpkin and spice recipes, department stores are stocked up on seasonal decor and pumpkin carving supplies, and kids are crafting their best jack-o-lantern artwork. Scary movies and Charles Schultz classics (including The Great Pumpkin) playing on TV are the norms we traditionally anticipate this time of year. Fall family activities can be found everywhere this month.
Let’s explore some spooky and fun ways to experience pumpkins, if you dare (mwahaha!)!
Before you do ANYTHING, you simply must know how to pick the perfect pumpkin. And it’s not as easy as you might think. There are some things to consider.
Will you be eating it or carving it?
Eating pumpkins vary significantly from carving pumpkins. While you can eat nearly any variety of pumpkin, the cooking pumpkin varieties offer the sweeter flavor desired in most pumpkin recipes. For an eating pumpkin, you want to select a variety known as a sugar pumpkin, also called pie or sweet pumpkins. If you’re not sure, ask the pumpkin patch owner, or the store clerk, depending where you’re shopping.
Carving pumpkins are basically any other variety. They can be Big Max (these can grow to be as big as one hundred pounds and 70 inches around), or any of over 40 different varieties. Things to keep in mind when choosing a carving pumpkin are to:
- Have your carving ideas and design in mind first (this will help you choose a size that fits your design and ensure it has a good “face” for you to carve).
- Be sure to see how it will sit once it’s carved. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a pumpkin that wants to keep falling over!
- Choose a size you can manage. Heavier pumpkins indicate thick sides that will hold up better after carving. Remember good things come in small packages too!
- Turn the pumpkin over on all sides to look for rotten spots and holes. This indicates something may have made this pumpkin it’s home. If you find this, you probably want to move on to the next one.
- Don’t use the stem for a handle to carry your pumpkin. If it falls off, not only will you not have a stem (possibly this was part of your design?), but it could pull part of the pumpkin off with it creating a hole and a place for your pumpkin to rot if you don’t carve it right away. You also run the risk of dropping the whole pumpkin. You’ll be left standing there staring at a smashed pumpkin (and possibly a crying child!).
Carving Is the Fun Part!
The jack-o-lantern gets its start from a not-so-savory Irish folk story about a man named “Stingy Jack” who had some run-ins with the devil. Halloween itself, also of Irish origin, has some ghost stories of its own. And the two merged together here in the United States sometime in the 8th century with the movement of All Saints Day to November 1st by the Roman Catholic Church.
Okay, history lesson aside. Carving your pumpkin into your one-of-a-kind jack-o-lantern offers an opportunity for you, adults and kids alike, to explore your more creative side. Will it become a scary face giving off an eerie vibe? Or will you opt for more of a cheerful tone?
For a novice carver (or the younger ones who want to “do it all by myself!”), sticking with simple shapes is best. But it doesn’t have to end in the traditional face (triangular eyes, nose, toothy grin). If your little one loves circles or triangles, let them carve shapes wherever they want to on their creation. If they’re too young for the carving, get creative with paints, stickers, and other craft supplies. Let their imagination go wild for pumpkins decorating every side.
If you’re a more experienced carver looking for inspiration, consider using your hobbies and interests to pick a design that suits you. If you’re still stuck, head over to Pinterest® for some great new ideas.
Let’s Have Some Crafting Fun
There’s more you can do with pumpkins than just carving. With the oodles and oodles of ideas on the internet, you’re sure to find some great ways to keep the kiddos busy and entertained making pumpkin crafts this fall. Grab the littles and check out these ideas:
- Start by perusing Pinterest® (there it is again!) for some free pumpkin printables to color. Use crayons, markers, or paints, and pull out the glue and glitter too!
- Orange colored paper plates at the dollar store make for a great blank canvas for a pumpkin or jack-o-lantern waiting to happen. Cut some eye, nose, and mouth holes and tie a string from one side to the other. And now you have yourself a homemade “mask-erpiece.”
- From stamping to papier mâché to painting rocks, Andreja over at Easy Peasy and Fun has some great ideas rounded up for you.
Bake Up a Pie Pantry Full of Goodies
Do you know what a pie pantry is? Also called meat or pie safe or chest, it’s a piece of furniture that looks remarkably like our modern-day kitchen cabinets. They were used for storing perishables including meats, produce, and baked goods to keep them safe from critters. They were kept in the coolest room in the house to delay food spoilage.
Pictures of antique pie safes usually show an array of baked goods and it always starts my mouth watering. The fall harvest of pumpkins is a great time to dive into baking some delicious treats. Between pumpkin pies, breads, roasting seeds, and making soups, it can be hard to decide which option is your favorite.
With my journey into plant-based eating, I’ve been experimenting with various pumpkin recipes. Here are a few of my favorites thus far:
- I’ve been making this pumpkin and chocolate chip loaf bread for years and years. Like my “best ever banana bread,” this one never disappoints. Adults and kids alike will fall head over heels for it!
- No pumpkin list is complete without a sweet and spice and everything nice pumpkin libation. Try this luscious “pumpkin spice latte” creation!
- Here’s a savory pumpkin seed recipe from Christy Denny over at her site, The Girl Who Ate Everything.
- Have you ever tried pumpkin soup? If you’re a pumpkin lover, this tasty pumpkin soup recipe from Kate over at Cookie & Kate is worth a try.
- Round out your pumpkin baking activities with this recipe for pumpkin pie from Holly over at Spend with Pennies.
So what will you be cooking up in your kitchen this fall?
Whether your family goes all-in on the meanings behind this celebrated time of year, or you choose to partake in only the fun and decor, pumpkins definitely offer an excuse to take a break from the usual humdrum of class schedules, work responsibilities, and fall yard clean-up chores. How do you plan to enjoy yourself some pumpkin time this year?