The History of the Jack-O-Lantern

A scary faced jack-o-lantern.

photo courtesy of pixabay

 

by Heather Stone

As the last days of October approach pumpkins carved in an array of faces and lit from within by candles dress porches, stoops, windows and walkways. The jack-o-lantern as we know it is a true American icon of Halloween, but where and how did this tradition begin?

There are several theories on the origin of the jack-o-lantern. In 17th century Britain, an unknown man or night watchman carrying a lantern was referred to as “Jack of the lantern.”

During the same century in Ireland the “lanterns of Jack” were one of many names to describe the strange phenomenon of lights seen flickering over the peat bogs. These lights are known by many names including the “will o’ the wisps.”

Scooping out the innards of a jack-o-lantern.

photo courtesy of pixabay

My favorite theory is based on an old Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack who tricked the Devil. The legend of “Stingy Jack” has many forms. Here is one.

Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin (the Devil being able to take one any form) that Jack could use to buy their drinks. After the Devil turned himself into a coin, Jack decided to keep the money placing it in his pocket. Inside his pocket lay a silver cross preventing the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack agreed to free the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years. Eventually, Jack died and legend has it that God would not allow him into heaven and the Devil angry from being tricked didn’t want Jack either. The Devil is said to have sent Jack off into the night with only a burning ember to guide his way. Jack but this ember into a carved out turnip and roams the earth to this day.

 

In Ireland, folks began carving faces into turnips to ward off Stingy Jack and evil spirits on All Hallow’s Eve. Beets were used in England. This tradition likely came to America with immigrants from these countries. The pumpkin being plentiful here and easy to carve became today’s jack-o-lantern.

Read more about the Queen of Halloween.

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Graphic that says, "This Pumpkin Seed Recipe Is Scary Delicious."

by Sam Doll

There are so many reasons to enjoy the month of October, but one of the truly special traditions is carving spooky jack-o-lanterns for Halloween! While making funny faces and creative carvings can be a blast, I get most excited for turning the slimy guts of the pumpkins into crispy, salty, roasted pumpkin seeds.

If you are interested in other Halloween Crafts, check out these 9 great craft ideas!

Pick the Right Pumpkin

Pumpkin seeds are a delicious, healthy seasonal snack that can be as creatively flavored any way you want!  The first thing you need to do is pick a pumpkin!

Want to grow your own pumpkins? The Jack-O-Lantern Variety are perfect for eating and carving.

Wandering through a pumpkin patch, it might seem impossible to know which pumpkin would be good for carving and roasting seeds. Lucky for you, the easy part is figuring out which ones are chock full of seeds. Just pick it up! The heavier the pumpkin, the more likely it is to be full of seeds.

If you need help picking out a perfect pumpkin for carving, check out this guide.

Harvest the Seeds

This is the fun part! Once you cut the top of your jack-o-lantern off, it’s time to get your hands dirty.

Set up two bowls. Scoop out as much of the guts and seeds as you can with your hands. Separate as many of the seeds from the pulp as you can and put them in one bowl. It’s okay if they are still slimy and still have a little pulp on them, you’ll clean that off later.

As you get near the end, use a large metal spoon to scrape down the inside walls of the pumpkin to clean out any remaining strands and straggling seeds. Wash up and finish carving your pumpkins!

If you need ideas or templates for carving, here are all you could ask for!

Prepare the Seeds

Place the seeds in a colander and rinse the seeds under cold, running water. Use your hands to remove any pulp still attached. Once clean, remove them and set aside

Here are four other great pumpkin craft ideas.

Boil the Seeds

Depending on how many seeds you have, fill a sauce pan or pot with water and salt it until it tastes like the sea. Bring to a boil and add the cleaned seeds.

Boil for 5-8 minutes until the seeds begin to look translucent. Remove the seeds to a baking sheet and pat them dry.

The boiling gives the seeds a pleasant salty flavor throughout and ensures that they cook evenly and without burning in the oven.

Roast ‘Em

Pre-heat the oven to 400-425 (this isn’t an exact science) and add the seeds. Roast until golden, crispy and delicious (about 10-15 minutes).

Remove them from the oven and add them immediately to a clean mixing bowl for seasoning.

Check out these incredibly delicious pumpkin recipes while you’re at it!

Season ‘Em

This is the fun part. No matter what seasoning you go with, you’ll probably want to use 1 tbsp of high-quality olive oil and some course kosher salt as a base. The oil helps the seasoning stick to the seeds and the salt helps elevate the other flavors.

Now, you can keep them simple and enjoy these classic fall snacks! If you are feeling a little wild, here are some other delicious flavoring suggestions.

The amount of seasoning will depend on how many seeds and what size you have, so start with a little and keep adding until it is just perfect

  • Sugar and Cinnamon: I like a mixture of 4 to 1 white sugar to cinnamon (here is more information if you are curious). If you want it a little hotter, add more cinnamon to the mixture
  • Curry: Any pre-made curry powder will work here, but you can make your own if you are feeling ambitious. I like this Thai Curry Powder
  • South of the Border: Use a 1:1 cumin to red chili flake mix. If you like it really spicy, add some cayenne powder.
  • Spicy and Savory: Use a 2:2:1 garlic salt (omit the kosher salt above if using this or just use garlic powder), lemon pepper, and cayenne to create a savory and hot mix.
 

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Graphic stating, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Monarch Migration."

 

by BBB Seed

Each fall, about this time in October, millions of Monarch butterflies begin the journey to their overwintering sites in Mexico and California. In the spring, the Monarch butterflies will then return to their breeding areas across America and as far as Eastern Canada. Four generations of monarch butterflies will be born and die by the time this journey is complete.

In February and March, the butterflies come out of hibernation and begin looking for a mate. These butterflies will then begin to migrate north and east looking for a place to lay their eggs. This begins the first generation. Eggs are laid on milkweed plants in March and April. These eggs will hatch into baby caterpillars that will then feed for about two weeks before beginning metamorphosis. After completing metamorphosis the monarch butterfly emerges and enjoys its short lifespan of about two to six weeks. Before dying the butterfly lays eggs for the second generation. This second generation is born in May and June and the third in July and August. Both of these generations will go through the same life cycle as the first generation. The fourth generation of Monarch butterflies is born in September and October and will go through the same process as the first three generations except for this generation of butterflies will live 6-8 months making the migration journey to the warmer climates of Mexico or California.

A mass of Monarch Butterflies.

photo courtesy of pixabya – skeeze

Monarch butterflies living east of the Rocky Mountains will overwinter in Mexico in oyamel fir trees. The Monarchs living west of the Rockies will overwinter in eucalyptus trees in and around Pacific Grove, California. It wasn’t until 1975 that we discovered these overwintering sites. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a World Heritage Site that contains most of the overwintering sites for the eastern Monarch population.

Monarch butterflies migrate for two reasons. The first is because the butterflies can’t withstand the freezing temperatures in the northern and central continental climates during winter. Second being their larval food source (milkweed) does not grow in their overwintering sites.

In recent years researchers have found the Monarch population numbers to be declining. Some reasons may include the loss of milkweed species needed for larval development, unintended effects of pesticide use and the loss of habitat in overwintering sites in both Mexico and California. Creating more Monarch habitat could help the declining populations. Planting milkweed species and other nectar-producing plants is a great place to start.  Start by planting our Monarch Rescue Mix!

Photo of a Monarch Butterfly on orange milkweed blossom.

photo courtesy of pixabay – balloonimals

Sources: https://www.monarch-butterfly.com/monarch-migration.html,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_Butterfly_Biosphere_Reservehttp://pollinator.org/

 

9 Great Halloween Crafts

Siloutte of Haloween figures.

photo courtesy of pixabay

by Heather Stone

It’s this time of year when the weather cools down and life begins to move back indoors I get the itch to get crafty. Halloween is the first holiday I really can’t wait to get started on. The crafting possibilities are almost endless when it comes to Halloween. You have pumpkins, bats, witches, ghosts, monsters, spiders, skeletons, mummies and so much more. Where to begin?

We’re only days away from the spookiest holiday of the year so it’s time to get started. Here is a list of some of my favorite Halloween crafts that we love to do year to year.

  1. Paper pumpkins- So simple but always fun. All you need is some orange paper and a pipe cleaner.
  2. Bats galore– A swarm of paper bats flying across the front door, up the stairs or across a wall is sure to send a chill up just about anyone’s spine. Hang them from the trees or the dining room chandelier too.

    Child holding an orange pumpkin with black paper cut-out eyes and grin.

    photo courtesy of pixabay

  3. Haunted Houses- This can be an easy two-dimensional drawing or an elaborate creation from recycled boxes. Let your imagination take the lead. Here’s a template for a fun and easy to create 2D haunted house or if you want to go 3D try making one from a recycled cereal box and place a light inside.
  4. Garlands- ghosts, cats, spiders or whatever spooks you this easy craft is fun for all ages.
  5. Halloween paper bag puppets– We make these every year in some form or fashion. Try making them from paper bags, toilet paper tubes or foam people shapes. They can be as simple or intricate as you like.
  6. Mummy or monster door- this is so easy to do and makes a great decoration indoors or out. Just cover your door in toilet paper or strips of white cloth, add a pair of eyes and your done.
  7. Halloween slime– green, purple filled with spiders, eyeballs, pumpkin guts, glow in the dark. The possibilities are endless.
  8. Pumpkin carving– Halloween wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t the carving or decorating of jack-o-lanterns. There are an endless amount of ideas across the internet. Try something new this year!

Want more Halloween craft ideas? Check out our Pinterest page. It’s filled with fun ideas for all ages to get into the spirit of Halloween.

Skull, candle and jug of bat potion.

photo courtesy of pixabay

 

All About Gourds

by Heather Stone

Photo of mixed gourds.

Photo courtesy of pixabay – Couleur

 

Fall is here and pumpkins and gourds can be found in abundance. From the farm stand to the local grocery store, these colorful and sometimes funny shaped fruits are part of the season. But, did you know that gourds are one of the oldest cultivated plants? Originally grown to make storage vessels and utensils, nowadays we largely use them for decoration. A member of the Cucurbit family along with cucumbers, squash and melon, gourds grow on large, vigorous vines that can be trained along fences or up trellises.

 

Humans around the world have utilized gourds for a very long time for a variety of purposes. Most commonly, gourds were used for storage containers, utensils, dippers and dishes. Gourds were also used for creating musical instruments such as shakers, maracas, drums and various stringed instruments resembling a banjo. Some of the earliest guitars and violins in the United States were made from gourds by African slaves.

 

There are three types of gourds:

  • Cucurbita pepo are the colorful little ornamental gourds that make good decorations.
  • Lagenaria siceraria are the hard-shelled gourds . Varieties include the Speckled swan gourds, bottle gourds, dipper gourds, birdhouse gourds and powderhorn gourds. Hard-shelled gourds have been grown for over five thousand years for use as containers, utensils and drinking vessels.
  • Luffa aegyptiaca is the well-known bath sponge. When dry, the outer shell is scraped off and the inner fiber is used as a sponge.

 

Gourds are easy to grow and come in a wide array of colors, shapes and sizes. Sow the seeds in a sunny location after all chance of frost has passed. Gourds will grow in almost any soil and under most conditions. Ideally, train the vines up a trellis or fence to keep the fruits off the ground while ripening and drying.  Most gourds reach maturity in 90-150 days. Harvest after the shells harden by cutting the fruits from the vines with 1-2 inches of stem attached. Cure them for a week in a warm, dry location with good air circulation.

Photo of dried gourds made into baskets.

photo courtesy of pixabay – mikegoad

To fully dry your gourds for crafting:

 

  • Place gourds in a warm, dark spot.
  • Regularly turn your gourds so air reaches all sides.
  • When you can hear the seeds rattle inside your gourd, it is fully dry and ready for use.
  • This drying period can take several weeks depending on the variety and size of the gourd.

 

You can create a number of things from your homegrown gourds.

 

Here’s the how-to for turning that birdhouse gourd into a birdhouse.

Want to make a bowl or two? Here’s a great tutorial.

Sources: http://indianagourdsociety.org/education/Gourds_In_American_History_2010.pdf

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/decorative-gourds-57941.html

https://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening/garden-journal/gourds-types-gourds-growing-gourds-curing-gourds

 

What’s Happening in the Honeybee Hive as Winter Starts to Close In

Photo of an open shed on a foggy heath housing several honeybee hives.

by Engrid Winslow

This part 2 of a series on what happens in beehives, what beekeepers do to manage their beehives and how you can also help to sustain honeybees and other pollinators.

Winter in a hive of honey bees is tough. Honey bees are the only bees who overwinter as a colony (more about the lifecycle of bumblebees and native bees will follow in later articles) which makes them much more vulnerable to the vagaries of winter weather. Here’s what is happening in the hive as fall changes into early winter.

Honey bees are amazingly resourceful at helping to winter-proofing their hives. They use a special substance called propyls to seal up all the cracks and crannies that could let in wind and moisture during the cold rainy months. Whenever the beekeeper checks on the hives (temperatures must be above 50 degrees and sunny) the bees do an admirable job of sealing everything back up again.

Honeybees are not warm-blooded and depend on clustering in order to combat the winter temperatures. The worker bees who are left in the colony after the drones (male bees) have been evicted are all daughters of the Queen Bee and are devoted to protecting her and whatever small amounts of brood remain in the hive. As winter settles in, days darken and temperatures really drop, the Queen lays fewer and fewer eggs until stopping completely. The remaining cluster of bees is made of those who hatched late in the fall and these few daughters center around the Queen. They rotate from the center, where the Queen is protected from the elements to the outside of the bee cluster.  They create warmth in the cluster by unhinging their wings at the shoulder muscle and vibrating them (also referred to as “shivering”). No foraging takes place (well, after all, what flowers are blooming in the winter anyway?) and the hive is dependent on the stores of honey and pollen that has been stored from the summer. The bees on the outside of the cluster are usually able to feed off the pollen and honey which is stored on the outside of the frame around the brood. When temperatures are warm enough the bees will venture out for “cleansing flights” – yes, that’s a delicate name for what they need to do! But otherwise, they are “socked in” for the winter months.

Beekeepers will continue to supplement food for their hives, depending on temperatures, as they hope and pray the bees will survive to expand their colonies next spring and summer.  Check out this youtube video to hear the amazing sound created by the bees in this winter hive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yqr40loMhJw

 

 

 

FALL IN LOVE WITH PUMPKINS

By Engrid Winslow

Halloween scarecrow with pumpkins at his feet.

A happy Scarecrow with BBB Seed Pumpkins…Fall is in the air!

Yep, we can tell we are here in fall because THE place to be on the weekends is in the pumpkin patch! Here are a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes and a link to one for our furry companions who love to romp in falling leaves and go on walks with us in the crisp fall air!

This recipe makes a delicious combination of fall flavors into a creamy “butter” (which contains zero butter and is very low in sugar) which is delicious on toast, biscuits, and scones or packaged into a gift basket for friends and neighbors during the Holiday Season. The best pumpkins for making a butter or pie are the small sweet ones like Sugar Pie or Cinderella.

PUMPKIN APPLE BUTTER

Makes about 4 ½ cups but can be doubled or tripled if you want more to share with friends and family

2 cups unsweetened applesauce (canned or homemade)

2 cups pureed pumpkin (canned or homemade – not pumpkin pie filling)

¼ cup apple cider

1/3 cup light brown sugar

3 TBL honey

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp grated fresh nutmeg

Heavy pinch of ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often to make sure that sauce doesn’t scorch and sides of saucepan stay clean until mixture is reduced by at least one third. It should also darken in color to a caramel brown with an orange tinge. Process using water bath canning, which will keep for about 6 months [www.freshpreserving.com/canning-101-getting-started.html] or place in refrigerator to use within 2 months or freeze for up to 12 months.

 

PUMPKIN BOLOGNESE

Serves at least 4

When you replace tomato with pumpkin you create a delicious and meltingly mellow version of traditional Italian Bolognese. Use lots of black pepper to temper the richness of this sauce.

2 lbs pumpkin, unpeeled and cut into large wedges with seeds scraped out

Brush the pumpkins with olive oil and place on a foil lined sheet pan to roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Let cool and then scrape flesh into a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan and cook down at medium heat, stirring often until pumpkin has reduced and is the thickness of tomato paste. This step will take about 20 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven heat 3 Tbl olive oil and add ½ lb ground pork and 1 lb ground beef over medium-high heat. Stir and break up chinks so that the meat is no longer pink. Just lightly brown it – we don’t want a crust on the meat. Remove and set aside. Add 1 cup finely chopped carrot, ½ cup finely chopped celery and 1/2 cup finely chopped onion to Dutch oven and season with 1 tsp salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. When the vegetables start to look like they are browning, reduce the heat to medium-low but keep cooking, stirring until they are fragrant and softened but not browned – about 10 more minutes.

Return meat to the pan and add 1 cup dry white wine and simmer until wine is reduced and almost completely gone – about 10 minutes. Fold in the pumpkin puree and 1 cup milk. Add more salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to a low simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.

Serve with cooked Tagliatelle pasta and grated Parmigiano Romano

 

And here’s a link to some amazing dog treats that my dogs have been enjoying for years:

positively.com/contributors/pumpkin-banana-dog-treats-grain-and-dairy-free

Giant pumpkins in an orchard.

BBB Seed BIG Max pumpkins!

 

8 Edible Flowers to Spice Up Your Next Meal

Sign for edible flowers.

by Sam Doll

What could be more special than having a garden full of beautiful blossoms?

How about a plate full of them too! Here are our 8 favorite edible blossoms.

  1. Borage

Borage, or Starflower, is a delightful herb that has been in use since ancient Greece. The blossoms and leaves are both edible and have a pleasant, cucumber-like flavor.

The flowers are great in salads, soups, sandwiches, and drinks! We love using borage blossoms in a classic Pimm’s Cup cocktail or just infused in water with lemon!

  1. Lavender

This classic, sweet-scented bloom is excellent in sweet and savory dishes. When roasting meats, replace rosemary with lavener to give your dish a slight floral aroma. You can also add it to any desert to create an elegant twist on classic dishes. Try this Lemon-Lavender Pound Cake or use it in jam to create layers of flavors!

Unless you are using it as a garnish, we recommend you transform it by either infusing it into a liquid, like syrup, or grinding it into a sugar mixture so your food doesn’t have an unpleasant texture from the fibrous elements of the plant

Make sure you are using English Lavender. French and ornamental lavenders can have unpleasant flavors and higher levels or camphor, which can make you sick in large quantities. Also, unless you are growing it yourself, make sure it is labeled as “culinary lavender” to make sure there are no unwanted additives or toxins.

  1. Squash Blossoms

These classic summer treats can be enjoyed into early fall, depending on how well your squash are doing. Tender and delicate, these beautiful orange blossoms taste mildly like the squash they will produce.

If you are growing them yourself, make sure to only harvest the male blossoms, so you can leave all the female blossoms to grow into squash.

Here is a great guide on how to tell the difference between male and female squash blossoms.

These blossoms are great stuffed, fried, or atop pizza and frittatas!

  1. Sage

Much more delicate than the leafy parts of the plant, sage blossoms can add a light, savory element to your dish. Usually too delicate to hold up to much cooking, sage blossoms do best when used raw. Garnish your dish with them or use them in a sage blossom pesto to highlight their flavor

  1. Chives

Like most alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, etc.), chive blossoms can add an intense oniony flavor to any dish. While they can be used the same as the green parts of the chive plant, we love to infuse them into rice vinegar to create a beautiful, pink onion vinegar!

  1. Rose

Rose petals are a classic way to add beauty and floral elements to a dish. Unlike a lot of blossoms, rose can hold up to strong flavors like cinnamon, coriander, and turmeric as well as more clean flavors like apple and cucumber. We love using rose petals to make the classic Indian beverage, Rose Milk.

 

  1. Bee Balm (Monarda)

This wildflower is member of the mint family native to North America. The leaves and petals are both edible and have a flavor that is a mix between peppermint, sage, and oregano.

The leaves can be dried and used to make an herbal tea that tastes similar to Earl Grey or the leaves and petals can be used fresh in a salad to add a bright, fresh element

  1. Calendula, AKA Pot Marigold

These beautiful, yellow blooms are excellent fresh and can range in flavor from peppery, tangy, bitter, and spicy. Most closely resembling the flavor of saffron, the petals can be used fresh to add a bit of life to any dish. The petals can also add a bright flavor to soup, eggs, and spreads.