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:

CONS
  • 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.

PROS
  • 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!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

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

http://www.armeniapedia.org/index.php?title=Ghapama

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.