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Connecticut Garden Journal: Carve a turnip, squash, or pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern

Halloween pumpkins on the bench during rain
Arman Zhenikeyev / Getty Images
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Corbis RF Stills
Many farmers now grow a variety of winter squash and pumpkins, so consider decorating a blue hubbard squash, a red or white flat, wheel-like Cinderella squash or a warty skinned pumpkin.

Halloween is almost here and it's time to get those jack-o'-lanterns ready to go. While carving an orange field pumpkin is the method of choice for many gardeners, you can also decorate other fruits to create a spooky, Halloween appearance.

The first jack-o’-lantern wasn't a pumpkin at all. In Ireland, kids would carve turnips and put candles in them to scare away the evil spirits on All Hallows Eve, especially Stingy Jack. Legend has it that Jack's spirit would wander the streets at night finding his way with only a candle. Kids would create their own versions of scary carved turnips to keep Jack at bay. Once Irish immigrants came to North America, they brought the same tradition but used the native pumpkins instead of turnips.

You can create your own version of a scary turnip or pumpkin by following a few tips. Like the Irish kids, use what fruits are available to you. Many farmers now grow a variety of winter squash and pumpkins, so consider decorating a blue hubbard squash, a red or white flat, wheel-like Cinderella squash or a warty skinned pumpkin. Then, using a dry erase marker, draw a design you can carve or paint on your squash. When carving, cut from the back of the pumpkins, remove the insides saving the seed for roasting and make a flat spot for a candle. You can also use flashing LED lights for a wild experience. After carving, rub petroleum jelly on the cuts so the pumpkin lasts longer.

Don't toss those squashes after Halloween. Many have tasty flesh for baking and cooking.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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