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Pumpkins ripe with legend

It’s that time of year again, when pumpkins are perched on nearly everyone’s front step. But did you ever wonder how pumpkins came to be associated with Halloween? A little research sheds some light on the subject.

According to Irish legend, a man named Stingy Jack tricked the devil, not once but twice, and upon departing from his earthly existence, was denied entrance to both heaven and hell. However, the devil gave him a burning ember from hell that would light his way back to the land of the living. Placing the ember in a hollowed-out turnip, Jack roamed the Earth without a permanent resting place. On Halloween (believed to be a time when spirits visited the living) the Irish placed a light in hollowed-out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes, and beets, in order to keep Stingy Jack at bay. When Irish immigrants came to America, the tradition came with them. The pumpkins they found here were easier to carve, and thus they became the jack-o’-lanterns we associate with Halloween.

Vivian Diglio-Caturano, the owner of J.C. farm and Greenhouses, Durham, has pumpkins of all sizes and shapes for your jack-o’-lantern.

“People are getting fancier with their carving,” she said. “The carvings are detailed, and you’ll see pumpkins with people’s faces, Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, witches, or Halloween scenes.”

Her son, Alfonso Caturano said, “Over the past three years there’s been a trend of people printing a picture they like off the Internet, putting it over the pumpkin and tracing it, and then carving it.”

“For a while people weren’t leaving their pumpkins out on the steps because they were being stolen,” Diglio-Caturano said, “but now they’re putting them out again. As for pumpkins being smashed, that usually happens on Mischief Night, and by then people don’t care.”

Let’s not forget that pumpkins, specifically sugar pumpkins, make for good eating. Diglio-Caturano likes to take the top off, scoop out the seeds, fill the shell with a meatloaf stuffing, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the fork goes through the skin easily. “You have your meat and potatoes,” she said, “because the pumpkin is like a sweet potato. Pumpkin is very nutritious. It’s a good source of vitamin A.” The seeds can be baked for 15 minutes at 425 degrees.

She has tips for making your pumpkin last longer: don’t carve it until a couple of days before Halloween; keep it off the ground; and keep it out of the sun.

If you’re wondering why pumpkin pie always shows up for Thanksgiving, www.bigsite of amazingfacts.com tells us the tradition started because the pumpkin season coincides with the celebration, and because the Native Americans introduced the pilgrims to the marvels of the plant. Early on, pumpkin was customarily made into a custard and put into a hollowed-out pumpkin shell. Pumpkin pie didn’t make its appearance until the mid 1600s.



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