It’s only in relatively recently that the pumpkin has ruled all things spooky – originally it was root veg, such as swedes or turnips, which were carved into grimacing faces with candles inside and placed on windowsills and doorsteps to chase away wandering bad spirits.
Looking like little shrunken heads, the smell of singed turnip used to be a familiar part of Halloween, along with the hours of effort it takes to hollow one out. Waste free, the insides went into stews or mash – these root veg and blue cheese pasties are a melty centred veggie treat that is a great way to use up swede if you carve a lantern, or put a hearty swede, leek and apple bake in the oven to warm you up after you get back from a night’s trick or treating.
Halloween itself began as the Celtic festival of Samhain, with its origins dating back thousands of years. Rooted in farming and agriculture, this ancient festival fell at the end of October to mark the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark winter.
Alongside pumpkins, apples are in plentiful supply at this time of year, with a wide variety of apples from tawny, fragrant russets to tangy Bramleys.
Used in traditional games like apple bobbing, they feature in recipes that are perfect for the season. From one of the ultimate comfort foods - apple crumble – to wonderfully warming mulled cider they can also provide a crisp counterpart to savoury flavours. Now summer veg are no longer around, red cabbage salad with beetroot, blue cheese and crispy chestnuts is a great alternative, a bright winter salad with buttery chestnuts and creamy cheese that’s good enough to eat on its own.
Traditions keep evolving, and new alternatives to pumpkins have sprung up everywhere over the last couple of years.
Pineapple is an emerging Instagram favourite. Packed full of vitamins, they make fun lanterns and the inside after you finish carving can end up in healthy smoothies, or more indulgent recipes such as pineapple upside down cake.
If you are tired of the modern plastic-filled version of Halloween with the accompanying overload of sugar, clever ways of making fruit and veg appeal to kids at Halloween are also becoming popular.
Peppers can be carved into edible mini lanterns that children will love to make and eat, and healthy snacks like tangerine mini pumpkins and banana ghosts are a great option, too.