Tori's tips for pumpkin carving

VIDEO ONE of the most recognisable symbols of Halloween, is a pumpkin carved into a jack-o-lantern. This weekend, features editor TRACEY SPARLING learns how to prepare a pumpkin in time for the fun on Wednesday night .

ONE of the most recognisable symbols of Halloween, is a pumpkin carved into a jack-o-lantern. This weekend, features editor TRACEY SPARLING learns how to prepare a pumpkin in time for the fun on Wednesday night .

HALLOWEEN is a night for dressing up, telling ghost stories, having spooky parties, trick-or-treating - and displaying a glowing pumpkin in your window.

What most people don't know is that Halloween is actually based on an ancient Celtic holiday known as Samhain (pronounced "sow wan"), which means "summer's end". It was the end of the Celtic year, starting at sundown on October 31 and going through to sundown November 1.

Celebrated for centuries by the Celts of old, Witches and many other nature based religions, it is also the Witches' New Year, and the Last Harvest.

Although the religious significance of it has passed for the general public, Halloween remains a 'magical' night for all.

Oliver Paul, co-owner of Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead has bought in his first batch of 150 pumpkins from local producers including Becky Abbott at Cragpit Farm, Tattingstone and they are selling well.

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He said: “There hasn't been a fantastic pumpkin harvest this year in terms of size, because when the seeds were planted originally it rained so much that they got washed away, and then the replanted seeds got thoroughly wet too.

Then there was a really dry spell and sun, so the pumpkins we do have tend to be smaller but slightly sweeter than usual. The problem with bigger ones is the inside can be mushy so they are harder to carve and cook.”

Suffolk Food Hall also sells locally-produced pumpkin seed oil - a nutty flavoured oil for cooking or dressing, Munchy Seeds produced by the Cley family at Leiston, and the restaurant chef will be cooking up pumpkin cake this weekend.

He said many customers had bought pumpkins to carve into glowing jack-o-lanterns.

Lanterns used to be carved from turnips or gourds, and set in windows to welcome deceased loved ones, but also to act as protection against malevolent spirits.

Pumpkins later replaced the turnips, as they are bigger and brighter.

Burning lumps of coal were used inside as a source of light, later to be replaced by candles.

Halloween didn't really catch on in this country until the late 1800s, and has been celebrated in so many ways ever since.

Are you carving pumpkins for Halloween? Send a high resolution jpeg picture of your children with their pumpkin to

Pumpkins are not a vegetable - they are a fruit. Pumpkins, like gourds, and other varieties of squash are all members of the Cucurbitacae family, which also includes cucumbers, gherkins, and melons.

They are indigenous to the western hemisphere and were completely unknown in Europe before the time of Columbus. In 1584, the French explorer Jacques Cartier reported from the St Lawrence region that he had found "gros melons", which was translated into English as "ponpions," or pumpkins.

Pumpkins have been grown in America for over 5,000 years. Native Americans called pumpkins "isquotersquash."

Pumpkins were used in health care in the past. They were believed to help eliminate freckles, were once used as a remedy for snakebites, and a number of face and anti-wrinkle cremes include pumpkin. They have zero cholesterol, are low in salt, contain beta carotene which helps to reduce certain types of cancer and lowers the risk of heart disease. Pumpkin seeds help to reduce the risk of prostrate cancer.


Q&A: Tori Spencer, pumpkin carver at Suffolk Food Hall

Q: What tools do you need?

A: A small sharp kitchen knife or small saw, a spoon or ladle, skewer, pen and design - and a pumpkin.

Q: What should you look for in a pumpkin?

A: I look for a good size, dark or bright colour to suit your design, a good shape and a nice 'face'.

Choose one with a stalk if your design has a hat or lid.

Q: What are the most popular designs?

A: Scary faces with sharp teeth, and I like the cat design

Q: How do you transfer the design to the pumpkin?

A: Place the paper template on the pumpkin and trace over the lines with a biro, to score the pumpkin underneath. Or if you're feeling brave, draw freehand, directly onto the pumpkin skin.

Q: How much do the pumpkins cost?

A: 40p to £4 depending on the size

Q: For anyone who's carved a pumpkin before, what's a new challenge?

A: Sculpt into the remaining pumpkin wall, to make details like teeth, so the candlelight can shine brightly through the thinner layers of flesh.

Q: What can you make with the pulp?

A: Pumpkin pie, cake (see panel), soup, or mash.

Save the seeds, to fry in a small amount of oil until brown, and sprinkle with celery salt or sea salt to eat as a snack.

Cube and roast the flesh and throw in with pasta.

For Tori's tips on how to choose the perfect pumpkin

Carving a pumpkin this weekend? For designs to download, see