Pumpkins are not widely available here in Armenia, and I only found 2 nice ones at the farmers' market in our neighborhood. I didn't want to carve them up -- at least not yet -- so today Nathan and I had a great time carving this traditional old Irish jack o' lantern from a turnip instead...that is to say, I did all the carving, while he happily munched on the pieces I removed! Nathan didn't understand what I was making until I carved the entire face. Once it was finished, he began to laugh, saying the turnip had a silly face, and he spent a few minutes imitating its spooky grin for the camera. Then he put on his smock and we painted the turnip with orange food coloring.
This was my first time carving a turnip, so I don't claim to be an expert by any means...I'm not even good at pumpkin-carving, for that matter. However, I plan to try making more turnip lanterns in the future. For those of you who have never carved a turnip before, you might want to give it a try, too! I can't yet discuss long-term results, but for now, here's how I would compare it to pumpkin-carving:
- Turnips are smaller than pumpkins, which can mean a difficult and potentially frustrating job if you have big, clumsy hands.
- The inside is solid, so it's a bit of a challenge to hollow it out -- I used a couple different sized kitchen knives and a dinner spoon. Please use caution!
- No roasted pumpkin seeds as a reward for your hard work.
- If you want to adorn your front porch with your little veggie lanterns, I imagine it would be difficult to appreciate them from a distance.
- Turnips are smaller than pumpkins, which can mean an easier job if you have small, nimble fingers.
- They're cheap.
- You can make a bunch of cute little lanterns in less time.
- No slimy, stringy pumpkin guts all over the place.
- No gross pumpkin guts smell.
- You can leave them ghostly white, or paint them any color you like -- green for a witch, black for a cat, or orange for a pumpkin!
- A little tea-light candle fits inside perfectly.
- Turnips were probably the original jack o' lanterns, since pumpkins are a North American crop, and Hallowe'en originates in England and Ireland.
- It's just different!