Halloween is a part pagan, part Christian holiday believed to have originated in the Celtic-speaking region of Ireland. Known as Samhain in Gaelic, this festival marks the end of the harvest season. This is a time of year when, according to Celtic-pagan traditions, it is believed that spirits (or Aos Sí in Gaelic) could roam the earth more easily because the boundary between this world and the otherworld could more easily be crossed.
It was thought that the spirits needed to be pleased in order to protect themselves and their livestock through the long winter. Great feasts were had and places were set at the table to honor those spirits thought to have returned to their homes seeking hospitality. People would dress up in costume and travel from door to door in search of food. The costumes may have served as a disguise to differentiate oneself from the Aos Sí to neighbors. People would carve turnips or pumpkins, usually with evil faces to ward away those evil spirits that may have returned.
When this tradition made its way across the Atlantic to the United States, pumpkin carving was originally associated with the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. In the 9th century AD, Western Christianity shifted the date of All Saints Day to November 1st and All Souls Day became November 2nd and at some point they all merged to form what we know today as Halloween.
While you can use huge, Jack-o-Lantern style pumpkins for your pie filling, they are pretty hard to prepare because of their size, but they also generally tend to not be as flavorful. Good pumpkins to use for baking are generally 4-8 pounds. You can sometimes tell if it is a good baking pumpkin by its varietal name, i.e. “New England Pie Pumpkin.”
Once you’ve chosen your pumpkin, all you need to do is cut the stem off, cut the pumpkin into segments, remove the seeds, cover the segments in olive oil and bake in your oven at 350℉ for about 45 minutes. Remove the skin and pureé in a blender, a food processor or with an immersion blender. Et voilá! Pumpkin pureé!
So now that we know a little bit more about why we carve pumpkins on Halloween and where Pumpkin Pie comes from, where can you find some pumpkins for your artistic and culinary masterpieces? Search for “pumpkin” on Good Food Finder AZ in order to find everyone growing pumpkins throughout the state. Here are just a few:
A handful of others around the state:
Bruzzi Vineyard; Young, AZ
Dig It Kingman Community Gardens; Kingman, AZ
Apple Annie’s Orchard; Willcox, AZ
Don’t forget you can eat any pumpkin, but smaller is just generally better. And you can carve anything really (the tradition started with turnips!), but bigger is generally better. Find pumpkins and other locally grown produce on Good Food Finder AZ. Happy Hunting!