Pumpkins – you just got shelved for a cheaper date this Halloween!
Halloween – that time of the year when your kids get dressed up, watch scary movies and there are spooky parties abound! It’s also a time marked by Jack-o’-lanterns, carved pumpkins glowing on doorsteps around the world. Here in Hong Kong, buying a huge, expensive, imported pumpkin to let your kids carve up requires some deep breath moments. Instead of shredding your hard earned moolah this year, how’s about we carve up some cheaper alternatives to pumpkins from pineapples to pomelos – same fun, less handwringing (more cash for date night! You like?).
Pineapples are the perfect fruit in the tropics to give pumpkins a run for their money. With their craggy exteriors and ready-made hairdos – they already look half the part. Easier to carve and much much cheaper and easier to find – you could buy one a week to carve (and worry less about mouldy produce on your doorstep)!
With their huge shiny green exteriors and blood red interiors – these guys scream Halloween like no other fruit. Perfect for carving up goofy toothy grins – plus you can use the flesh for teatime snacks, blended up for smoothies and any extra can be frozen ready for slushies.
The practice of decorating Jack-o’-lanterns originates from the Irish, where large turnips and potatoes were originally carved to ward off evil. America adopted this tradition but replaced the humble potato with a pumpkin. Let’s go back to the roots of this tradition with the much cheaper (albeit smaller) vegetables. American Russet potatoes are probably the largest variety here or try sweet potatoes, too! Rub your cut potato with lemon juice or vinegar to keep it from oxidizing and going black.
Another vegetable, originally used by the Irish, where the tradition originated. Look in your supermarket or wet markets for local turnips (the white fleshed variety are most common) and you can get pretty large ones which are perfect for carving.
Oranges make cute mini carvings – they fit the bill for colour and you can scoop out the flesh and the pith keeps really well (less chance of the dreaded mould). Slice the top of one third off all the way across, scoop out the fruit, carve the bottom two thirds into your design, then return the lid. You can cut a star shape into the lid to let extra light through. Careful if you put mini candles in here – you’ll need to keep a close eye on them as the lid is very close to the flame.
Pomelos score points for their size – much bigger and beefier than an orange and due to the amount of pith, the carved structure will stay solid for longer. These guys are much easier to carve than a pumpkin and they hold a candle or tealight much more safely than an orange. In fact, pomelos could just be our choice of Asian Jack o’Lantern.
Read more: Sensory Play: Getting Your Hands Dirty
This article was originally published on Sassy Mama Singapore in October 2017.