27 October 2009

Tips for carving a turnip lantern

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!
Have a happy Samhain/All Hallow's Eve/Snap-Apple Night/Celtic New Year/Hallowe'en!


Anonymous said...

Interesting that Pumpkins are not readily available. Ghapama is an Armenian stew made famous by the singer Harout.


Jarred, Angela, and Nathan said...

Yes, I've read about ghapama in the book _Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction, and Folklore_. But we just don't see pumpkins here. There's plenty of butternut squash, which many English-speaking Armenians refer to as pumpkins...perhaps these are the 'pumpkins' used for ghapama??? Or maybe there are more pumpkins available outside the city.