Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pumpkin, Pumpkin

Last year's Thanksgiving table
 As Thanksgiving approaches, our thoughts turn to the foods of the holiday: turkey and pumpkin top my list of must-haves for the feast.

And as usually happens, my mind also turns to folklore and superstition. Are there any folkloric do's and don'ts when it comes to the humble pumpkin? I went looking and this is what I found.

Eating pumpkins seeds will make you beautiful. Really? I've apparently missed this opportunity for years!

A cow that eats pumpkin seeds will go dry soon afterwards. Perhaps because pumpkins are a fall crop, which means fresh grass will soon be scarce, so cows milk production would naturally drop in the days before good hay and feed were easily available.

Eat pumpkins seeds to get rid of tapeworm (which might make you more healthy and more beautiful as a result?). You can have the same result, apparently, from drinking pumpkin seed tea. Another way to effect this cure is to eat nothing but pumpkin seeds and milk, and then to take a dose of castor oil. Which would probably be effective by itself! Pumpkin seed tea was also once used as a cure for bladder problems.

When saving your pumpkin seeds, be sure to save some from both male and female plants. And all these years I had no idea there was a difference!

Plant pumpkin seeds in May and they will all run away. Plant pumpkin seeds in June and the fruit will come soon.

These are all from the book by William Carroll (Carroll, William. Superstitions: 10,000 You Really Need, Coda Publications, 1998.) This book contains a warning to use these superstitions at your own risk, so you are forewarned!

In Jamaica, farmers believe that if a pregnant woman walks over their vines, the vines will bear more abundantly. Which makes me wonder if the local personal ads have listings like, "Wanted: Expectant mother to walk over my pumpkin vines. Will reward with pumpkins after harvest."

Most of us would never consider doing such a thing, but in some places people once believed that eating a pumpkin vine will make you foolish.  In Spain, people believed that pumpkins should only be planted on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). In our planting zone, those vines would likely be frosted! But Spain's weather is much warmer than ours.

In Laos, it's believed that if you eat pumpkin or pumpkin seeds at a funeral, the deceased will get up and eat them with you. Yowzer! Definitely not a funereal food then.

In Kentucky, if you plant pumpkins when the signs are in the heart, the insects will eat them up.

On Guy Fawkes Day, it was once customary to carry two pumpkins carved with very ugly faces and with candles inside. One face represented the Devil, the other the Pope, and both were burned in a bonfire. (Encyclopaedia of Superstitions and the Occult Sciences)

From India: "Never cross or jump across the worshiped pumpkins or coconuts on the road." There is no reason given as to why not to do this, but don't do it, just in case.

Some people believe a grey pumpkin will protect from the evil eye, according to this story from India.

To prevent bed-wetting, feed a child pumpkin seeds parched with salt. This one is from New Orleans.

I am so relieved that there is nothing in this list about bad luck connected with pumpkin pie, as it is second only to apple pie in my book. For my pumpkin pie and pie crust recipe, and lots of other pumpkin recipes, go here to a post I wrote several years ago.

Have you ever heard any superstitions about pumpkins? If so, please share in the comments! I'd love to hear them.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

I love old lore like this. I use to like pumpkin pie more than I do now. For some reason---one of the spices?----it doesn't always agree with me.

Michelle said...

Love reading all of these superstitions. I must admit that I dislike pumpkin seeds. A big thing where I work, in a primary school. Lots of pumpkin carving and seed roasting...yuk!

jcm said...

Very interesting! My favorite pies are also apple and pumpkin....and cherry and blueberry and peach.... :-)

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