The idea of the Jack O’Lantern and pumpkin carving is derived from Irish folklore. Despite the different variations, the basis of all the mythical stories center around an Irishman nicknamed Stingy Jack who played tricks on everyone, including the devil. Whether he was having a drink with the devil and not paying his fair share or he was tricking the devil into climbing up a tree where Jack had carved crosses, preventing the devil from climbing down, Stingy Jack ultimately made a compromise with the devil. In order for the devil to be freed from Stingy Jack's tricks, the Devil had to promise him that he would never take his soul.
As the story goes, Stingy Jack eventually died. Because of his sinful ways, he was not accepted into heaven. And, true to the devil’s promise, Stingy Jack was not allowed into hell either. He was left all alone in the dark with nowhere to go. The devil then gave him an ember with eternal flames from hell to walk with. He carved a turnip and placed the light inside of it to help him as he wandered through the darkness for eternity.
As the story continued to be told throughout history, people began carving scary faces and characters on different vegetables holding burning coals for protection against the dark spirits, just like Stingy Jack. After people started immigrating to America, pumpkins were discovered easier to carve and candles replaced coal. Still, the tradition of the Jack O’Lantern continued.
After you finish carving your pumpkin, save the seeds and bake them. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are an easy and tasty snack that is perfect for the fall. I remember my mom always had treats for us after carving, so I asked her how she makes them.
Pumpkin Seed Recipe
• One pumpkin
• Cookie sheet
• Olive oil or butter
• Herbal seasonings, such as salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper
1. Rinse the pumpkin seeds and remove all the pulp. To help get the pulp off, put the seeds in bowl of water—most should come off that way.
2. Spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet and let dry. (The seeds taste best if you soak them in salted water the night before.)
3. Toss the seeds with olive oil, or butter, and sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, or any other herbs you think would taste best.
4. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, continually tossing the seeds.
5. Cook until golden brown.
excerpt from "The Herb Companion" magazine